Saturday, November 28, 2020

50,000 Calories Can't Be Wrong

Bizarro Studios is closed for the long holiday weekend, so we'll keep this week's post brief.

Reference Photo of the Week

Cards on the Drawing Table

As we do every Saturday, we are pleased to offer a recap of our latest cartoon laffs.

A friend noted that this gag ran on the birthday of Boris Karloff. This was an unplanned but welcome coincidence.

I offer apologies to the continent of Australia for the use of a stereotype of their citizenry. As a youth, I was indoctrinated by Monty Python.

Isn't Bonsai & Barrel a mall store?

Thursday's panel offered a nod to a peculiar American tradition: the fad diet.

Our hero actually decided to take the pill making himself smaller before tackling this treat, for a more fulfilling experience.

This one was inspired by a friend's speculation about the origins of BMX after attending a rally. I enjoyed drawing the penny-farthing bicycle, and channeling the influences of both Edward Gorey and Chuck Jones.

We found the strip version of this gag to be a pleasing visual composition.

Thanks, as always, for checking out the blog. We'll return next week with a wordier offering. Meanwhile, please drop by Dan Piraro's blog, for his insights and a brand new Sunday Bizarro page.

Bonus Track

An Elvis-inspired performance by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Happy Surrealism Day

Today, November 21, is the 122nd birthday of the Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte, celebrated in some circles as National Surrealism Day. Bizarro CEO Dan Piraro sent me a reminder of the rule of the day: If you see something strange, say something strange.

Earlier this week, we brought a bag of donuts to the lunchroom to celebrate a milestone at Bizarro Studios North.

This is a peek at the thousandth cartoon to roll off our production line. We're pleased to say that we accomplished this without a single lost time accident, and no employee grievances filed.

I find it hard to believe that I'm about to finish my third year of creating the Bizarro dailies. It continues to be the best job I've ever had, and I'm going to keep at it as long as I can grip an inking brush.

For trivia fans, the finished version of this gag will run on March 10, 2021. Who knows what the state of the world will be by then? Let's hope for the best.

And, yes, I number every original and stamp it with the date it was completed. The left side of my brain won't be denied.

Meanwhile, here's a look at our most recent published work.

We started the week with an incendiary performance by a revolutionary dancer.

He may take frequent breaks to surreptitiously eat flies, but he's still more credible than Giuliani.

We brought a bit of art history to the funny pages on Wednesday, with a nod to the aforementioned René Magritte. The gag references his famous 1929 painting, The Treachery of Images, popularly known as This is Not a Pipe. The dialog is of course a direct adaptation of the painting's text, and a pipe appears on the teacher's desk. Or does it?

The Inverted Bird, one of Bizarro's secret symbols, parodies another Magritte work, The Son of Man.

Paul, Raymond, and René Magritte, 1905 

I based the drawing of the future artist on a photo of him with his brothers. I mixed features and clothing from all three of them, and it ended up looking more like Paul than René. Paul was known as the relatively cute Magritte Brother.

Like most of us, Old Man 2020 has had enough. Some readers didn't recognize the character as the outgoing year without showing him wearing the traditional sash. I may have missed an opportunity by not drawing a singed, threadbare 2020 ribbon as a hatband. However, with the universally-acknowledged suckiness of this year, the vast majority of people did get it.

Hey, it could be worse.

Another art history gag, featuring Auguste Rodin doing some unintended editing.

Photo research confirms that Rodin was an artist who actually wore a beret. I couldn't find any information regarding his height, but I believe he was taller than I've drawn him.

Thanks for reading the comics for yet another week. Your comments and social media posts are appreciated. If you'd like to read more about how the cartoon sausage is made, pop on over to Dan Piraro's blog, where you can also admire his newest panoramic Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

This is Not a Disco Song
Snakefinger, 1986

Note: Some YouTube videos are not available outside the USA.
If you're reading the blog on your phone, you may have to select 
"view web version" to see the video link. Damn technology!

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Hand Wash Only

Shortly after last week's blog went live, the winner of America's 2020 presidential election was announced. Across the country, people danced in the streets, except for those humoring a pouting toddler who's still screaming "No Fair!" in futile hopes of altering reality.

Reference image of the week1
While we anxiously await the gracious concession speech, let's review our most recent comics.
Monday's panel had quite a few readers drawing parallels to current events, but of course the timing was entirely coincidental (this comic was drawn in late July). Obnoxious behavior is apparently timeless.

After I've finished drawing a comic panel, I add a Photoshop layer to make sure I've counted the Bizarro Secret Symbols correctly. I began doing this after a couple of comics were printed with incorrect numbers. Occasionally an error will get past me, but this review usually helps. My dear friend and musical bandmate Tom always reminds me to go back and do an "idiot check" when we pack up our gear after a gig. I now apply the idiot check to my comics work.

Since we've been avoiding unnecessary excursions, more and more cardboard boxes pass through our home. Anyone residing with feline family members will recognize this character's behavior.

If he misses any more rehearsals, they'll have to postpone recording their new cylinder.

A scene from the Nature Valley Courthouse.

My drawing of the skeleton falls about midway between accuracy and fabrication.

A sad but familiar story, with a linty aftertaste.

That's the roundup for this week. Thanks for following our shenanigans. Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's weekly blog, which updates on Sunday or Monday. If you haven't started reading his surreal western graphic novel, Peyote Cowboy, now is a good day to jump in for a brief escape from the whirlwind news cycle.

More Lemming Stuff

I was delighted to see last week's lemming cartoon reposted by the National Cartoonists' Society, with a forceful response from our president, Jason Chatfield: "We refuse!"

Also, a helpful web citizen took time to explain the joke.

Bonus Track

The Wizard of Menlo Park/Get the Phone
D. Beaver, from the 1973 LP Combinations
TMI Records, Memphis

Rather than subject you to the Chipmunks, here's a forgotten pop gem about Thomas Edison, with a coda for Alexander Graham Bell.

Last week I received an email from an old friend who years ago ran Pittsburgh's first all-used record store, where I spent many hours when I was supposed to be in classrooms. While writing this post, I remembered that he recommended this record to me, knowing of my fondness for quirky, smart performers like Sparks, Todd Rundgren, and Roxy Music, among others. Since we ran an Edison-themed comic it was the perfect week to share this tune.


1 As part of the artistic process, cartoonists and illustrators often refer to photos in order to make their drawings recognizable, if not wholly accurate. The image at the top of this post is a reference image I used this week while working on a batch of comics to be published next year. It was useful as a drawing tool, and makes for an intriguing preview thumbnail on social media links to the blog.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Strike Anywhere

What a week it's been. We had a full moon on Halloween, a record election turnout, and a pathetic executive meltdown.

If that wasn't exciting enough, there was also a fresh batch of cartoons from the Bizarro Studios North Fun Factory.

Lawns are okay for digging and defecating, but you should only consume the best.

An exercise in autocomicography, although I'm more inclusive, and don't limit my celebrations to sweets.

Wednesday's cartoon is a lighter variation on the folkloric hero, John Henry.

The strip layout provided a dramatic widescreen perspective on the bout.
Jimmy's theme song was "I Fought the Law (of Gravity)"

I took advantage of the strip layout for this gag. Print readers had to rotate their newspaper by ninety degrees, but you can read it in its proper vertical orientation on this blog.

While I can't vouch for the existence of the World Lemming Council, I know for a fact that the National Cartoonists Society is real, and I'm a proud member.
Google's helpful suggestion

For the record, we're not going to stop doing gags about lemmings jumping off cliffs. We know it's a myth, but it serves as a useful metaphor for human behavior, including, apparently, a significant portion of the American voting public.

My mental image of an artist was formed by the original television art instructor, Jon Gnagy, so I'll probably always draw male artists with a goatee and mustache.
I don't recall him wearing a beret, but a cartoon about a painter requires one.

Gnagy's art lessons were broadcast by NBC well before my time, but I probably saw reruns as a child.

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that this "Learn to Draw Outfit" did not in fact included a plaid flannel shirt and high-waisted tweed pants; just art supplies and a book.

Thanks for coming by the old blog, friends. Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's Bizarro blog, too. His Sunday pages are always worth the trip.

Bonus Track 

In times of uncertainty, stress, anxiety, or self-doubt, music can be comforting and reassuring. I often listen to Alice Coltrane's music while drawing, to encourage a calm mood and stay focused on the work. 

Over the past couple of days, I've been returning to her records to remind myself to slow down and breathe.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Spooky Tooth

Well, Jazz Pickles, it seems that Halloween will prove to be the least scary part of 2020. 

If you didn't vote early, be sure to cast your ballot on Tuesday.

This is your cartoonist at age 6, disguised as an octopus named Grippo. I've never found mention of this character that didn't reference the costume. I'm guessing it was created by a designer at the Ben Cooper company, and disappeared from the cultural radar shortly thereafter. Perhaps they were sued by the magician Jimmy Grippo.

A cartooning conversation with Nick Galifianakis, Dave
Blazek, Dave Whamond, Wayno, and Hilary Price

I had a pleasant break from work a couple days ago, when my colleague Dave Blazek organized a cartoonists' conference call. We had a great time catching up and talking shop. Although not the same as gathering in person, it was quite therapeutic.

Speaking of work, let's see what the shipping department at Bizarro Studios North sent out this week.

Alternatively, it could be a copycat carver.

The strip layout allowed for photos of additional victims.

Tuesday's panel imagines a form of self medication that combines ancient practices and modern technology.

Haggis has a undeserved reputation as being horribly unpalatable. I tried it for the first time at a local Burns Night supper, and found it to be rather tasty. Low expectations may have been a factor, or possibly the whisky pairing.

As a public service, we're pleased to provide a link for readers who'd like to make their own haggis rolls.
The wide angle strip was drawn after the Flying Saucer of Possibility made an emergency aquatic landing.

If I watch any television in the evening, I'll usually finish with a few minutes of a placid nature documentary, preferably something about whales, to calm my brain for sleep. That practice was a partial inspiration for this gag, along with a real-life concert experience. 

In the late 20th century, we saw the Neville Brothers band performing at a club here in Pittsburgh. The last half hour of their performance was a steady build-up of high energy funk, and the audience was on their feet, dancing and shouting for more. After several encores, the crowd was still on fire. The group left the stage, except for Aaron Neville, who performed an achingly beautiful acapella version of "Amazing Grace." Even the nonbelievers were moved. It was the perfect musical nightcap.

A few readers expressed an interest in Iron Bunnies of Doom t-shirts. That's not a bad idea. We're open to suggestions for umlaut placement.

By the way, who else sorely misses live music?

The traditional way to wish this actor good luck is, "Chip a tooth!"

Also, that's a copy of Zariety on the agent's desk. It's the official Bizarro entertainment trade paper.

It pays to specialize.

Thanks for joining us for another week of comics. Check out Dan Piraro's blog for additional wisecracks, and a look at Dan's latest Bizarro Sunday page. 

Stay safe, and go easy on the candy corn.

Halloween Bonus Tracks

This week, we're offering two seasonal gems from the vinyl archive at Bizarro Studios North

Our first Halloween tune is Oscar "Papa" Celestin's 1955 ode to the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.


I'll buy just about any record that namechecks Frankenstein. I believe this is the only record The Swinging Phillies ever released, but it's a winner.

The Phillies thoughtfully included a brief biography on the labels.