Saturday, November 09, 2019

Ivan the Savory

Winter is approaching here at Bizarro Studios North, and we've switched the clocks back to standard time, so please excuse us if we start using brighter colors to try to offset the seasonal gloom and grayness.

Let's take a look at this week's gags, and see if that lifts our spirits.

We kicked off with a typical case of hatchling rivalry. Parenting is tough for every species.
We're constantly second-guessing ourselves here at the studio, and after this cartoon was printed, I wondered if the connection between the words feather and finger would have been conveyed more effectively if we'd used quotation marks as shown above. I think it does work a little better with the added punctuation, but it's already out there in its original form.

Tuesday's panel imagines how the Three Stooges might have gone over in the Elizabethan era.
Lead Stooge Moe Howard credited Pittsburgher Paul Shannon with helping to revive the trio's career in the early 1960s, when he featured Stooge shorts on his afternoon kids' TV show, Adventure Time. Your humble cartoonist's Cub Scout pack once attended an Adventure Time taping. Sadly, I have no photographic evidence of that field trip.

I realized after the fact that this panel's caption also recalls the title Anythynge You Want To: Shakespeare's Lost Comedie, a literate and hilarious recording by the Firesign Theatre.

Apparently Russia meddled with Wednesday's gag involving tinned autocrats. The text on the side of the can is a modified version of сардинкы, the Russian word for sardines. We tweaked it to accommodate the K2 Secret Symbol.

Wednesday was also the birthday of Adolphe Sax, creator of the saxophone. To honor this important date, here's an old WaynoVision panel featuring the sax.

Jake and Will, working on a folkloric masterpiece. 

I swear, this gag was not timed to coincide with any real-life events.

Our last gag of the week is a simple verbal switcheroo. Drawing the pie was easier than working out the math. I checked the totals at least a dozen times before uploading this file.

I often use reference photos to make my drawings less inaccurate, and usually print out collages to look at while I work on the art. These are the pages I made to help with this week's output. 

Yes, those are actual historical tsars in Wednesday's panel, although I've forgotten which ones.

Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog, to view his latest widescreen Bizarro Sunday page, and see what he has to say about this batch of cartoons.

Bonus Track

Please enjoy Louis Armstrong's 1954 version of the Russian folk song Очи чёрные, also known popularly as Dark Eyes.

Armstrong chose to ignore the original lyrics, which were written by Ukrainian poet Yevhen Hrebinka, but it's still a fine recording by America's greatest musician.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Into the Woods

A few days ago, I uploaded the Bizarro files for the week of Monday, December 30. That closes out my second full year as Bizarro's daily cartoonist, and kicks off Year Three.
Preview of the New Year's Day 2020 panel
I can scarcely believe it's already been two years since Dan Piraro left the basement door unlocked, allowing me to sneak in and start displaying my work in the gallery he built nearly 35 years ago.

Writing and drawing a daily comic is the best job I've ever had, as well as the most challenging. I appreciate every reader, especially those who also follow the blog, or take time to send a note when they see a gag they particularly like (or dislike).

I hope to keep doing it for many years to come, in batches of six, one after the other.

Speaking of which, let's look over the latest six-pack.

We started off with a suggestive scene in the bar at Whole Foods. One waggish reader on Facebook commented that they'd now refer to their favorite sandwich as a "B.L. Threesome," which I must admit is rather catchy.

Joe intentionally created this signage as bait for self-styled grammarians.

Some readers outside the United States weren't familiar with the sloppy joe sandwich, an American invention consisting of ground meat mixed with various sauces and seasonings, and served on a hamburger bun.

According to Wikipedia, it's a descendant of the loose meat sandwich, created in Sioux City, Iowa in the 1930s. For more info from a true
connoisseur of all types of "sangwidges," I refer you to my paisano Mark Zingarelli, and his comic gourmand, Eddie Longo.

It's not widely known that piñatas shaped like Saint Bernards leave behind airplane bottles of brandy.

Our favorite detail in the Halloween Day panel is the weapon in the evidence bag. 

Friday's wordless panel confirms the answer to an age-old question.
The strip version required some additional vegetation and shuffling of elements, but this layout flows pretty well.

We at Bizarro Studios assure our readers that no pumpkins were harmed in the making of these comics.

That wraps up the Halloween Week edition of Bizarro. Come visit us again any time.

Be sure to check out Dan Piraro's blog, which usually posts on Sunday or Monday, for more pithy commentary and other tasty treats.

Bonus Track

Our bonus track is Leon Russell's "Out in the Woods," from his 1972 LP Carney. In addition to its obvious arboreal theme, it has a perfectly spooky vibe for Halloween/Day of the Dead.

Although I've owned a copy of this record since my teens, I hadn't listened to it in many years, until I pulled it off the shelf in 2015 to make a "record head" photo (a time-consuming hobby I indulged in for a while). As I experimented with the staging and rejected multiple shots, I played the album, and it felt like a reunion with an old friend. In fact, I think I'll revisit it again today, as I start working on my next batch of cartoons.

"Carney" record head
Photographed at Bizarro Studios North 10/22/15

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Bête Orange

If someone's wearing a mask he's gonna tell you the truth. If he's not wearing a mask it's highly unlikely.
Bob Dylan

It's almost Halloween; our favorite holiday here at Bizarro Studios North. We scheduled today's update for automatic posting, since we'll be away from the studio attending our community's Halloween parade this morning.

This is a costume I wore many years ago, portraying a cartoon character nobody heard of before or since: Grippo the Octopus. Despite multiple web searches, I've located no information beyond a single photo, apparently from an expired eBay auction.
I can certainly see why I grabbed this box from the toy store shelf. Who could resist that creepy "Glo-in-the-dark" mug peering out from behind its cellophane window?

Let's hope that you find a treat or two among the week's cartoons.

The character communicating via crystal ball apparently doesn't realize that those daily visits are actually part of his parents' hellish punishment.

This looks like more of a pamphlet than a novel, but Whiskers has difficulty with anything that can't be typed by merely walking back and forth across the keyboard, so even a few pages is an impressive accomplishment.
We had fun drawing this one, and based our book cover on the actual novel's original dust jacket. Since ours is a much shorter book, we included fewer leaves than the original design.

Sometimes mocking our fears lessens their power over us. 

For a character with no limbs, that's a mighty clean carving job.

Tonto's unspoken response to this wardrobe malfunction is, "Do your own shopping, kemosabe."

Shortly after I uploaded this gag, my cartooning co-conspirator, Dan Piraro, sent me the folllowing photo:
It's an old, handmade papier-mâché mask that's on display at Rancho Bizarro World HQ in Mexico. It's eerily similar to the one I drew in the Lone Ranger panel, despite the fact that I'd never seen it before.

The police photographer is relieved that the suspect didn't request Snapchat's cat ears filter.

Saturday's cartoon can either be read as a joke or a product proposal.

Thanks for joining us again, Jazz Pickles. For additional frightening commentary, ring Dan Piraro's virtual doorbell and check out his weekly blog post, where you can also enjoy his latest Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

In honor of Halloween, here are Los Straightjackets, four very cool masked musicians, backing up the great Nick Lowe on what's possibly his all-time best composition.

What's so funny, indeed.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Ooze and Ahhs

On Thursday of this week, we paused at the drawing board to raise a cup of coffee, celebrating the 103rd birthday of the patron saint of Bizarro Studios North: the great Virgil Franklin Partch

This 1960 photo of VIP (as he often signed his work) watches over us every day as we labor in  the cartoon trenches.

Now, let's review our recent attempts at graphical humor.
The old novelty X-ray Specs didn't actually enable the user to peer at anyone's bones, but our official Bizarro brand Keyhole Cheaters make no false claims. They merely promise to make everything seem just a little naughty.

This cartoon made some readers cringe, but think of the poor massage therapist who almost passed out after moving the customer's privacy towel.

As we approach Halloween, here's a look into the basement at Castle Frankenstein, where Viktor Junior shows some ingenuity while tending to his pets.

We followed up on Thursday with a seasonal variant on the familiar image of neighbors chatting over the backyard fence.

If there truly were a heavenly afterlife, most of us would have to employ this strategy in order to gain entrance.

One must admire a professional who seeks innovative ways to improve their job-related skills.

Thanks for sticking with us for another week of foolishness. Do yourself a favor and surf over to my partner Dan Piraro's blog, where you can see what he has to say about this batch of comics, and shares his latest widescreen Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

Unlike those cheap
toys, X-Ray Spex the band always delivered the goods.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Seance Fiction

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. We're buzzing with activity here at Bizarro Studios North as we plan our Halloween costumes and begin the countdown till local ghouls come knocking on the door.

Our tradition for the holiday is to order a delivery from a favorite pizza shop and watch Something Wicked This Way Comes, with pauses to hand out goodies. If you haven't seen this 1983 movie, we highly recommend it. It was co-written by Ray Bradbury (and adapted from his novel) and boasts an outstanding cast, including Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd, Royal Dano, and Pam Grier. It's an effectively creepy film, that was probably too scary for kids when released.

How do you celebrate? Reply in the comments section.

Now, let's look back at this week's sometimes-creepy cartoons.

To accommodate all of the restless souls floating around, some psychics are now taking sign-ups for variety shows.

A sharp-eyed reader pointed out that we used the British spelling of the word "specter." I must have been feeling fancy the day I drew this one.

While researching Tuesday's panel, I discovered that the familiar Three Musketeers bar was given its name because the original 1932 package included three small bars: one each of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavor. I'd have called it a Neapolitan.

Understanding this gag requires a general familiarity with the Alexandre Dumas novel, which is no stretch for Bizarro's highly literate readership.

Be sure to pick up a tube of Super K2 adhesive for all of your vandalism needs.

True fact: In 2008, a Finnish tourist was fined $17,000 for chipping an earlobe off one of the iconic Easter Island statues, and was banned from returning for three years.

A footnote on an adjacent stone tablet reads, "The earlier explorer didn't need a magnifying glass."

When life gives you leeches...

Mea Maxima Culpa
For each daily Bizarro gag, I create four separate files to upload to the syndicate for distribution: I do the panel and strip layouts for both full color and black & white printing.

Thanks to a reader from Houston who posted on Facebook, I was made aware of an error in Friday's black & white strip as it appeared in the Houston Chronicle.
Apparently, when I removed the color layer to make the grayscale file, I neglected to replace the red lettering on the sign with solid black lettering.
This is how it should have appeared:
I offer sincere apologies to all readers in Houston, and anyone else whose paper runs the black & white strip. I realize that sometimes a gag may cause confusion, but for those who were scratching their heads on Friday because they didn't get the joke, it wasn't your fault.

My thanks go out to Mark Rogerson of Houston for bringing this to my attention. Going forward, before I send off the weekly files, I'll stop to do one more "idiot check."

The lettering may have turned white, but my face is still red.

Now, back to the final gag for the week.

Saturday's panel predicts a trend in rooftop bar design. 

This is my first pirate-themed cartoon that doesn't actually depict a pirate.
Print readers whose papers run the strip version of Bizarro had to rotate the page by 90 degrees, but through the miracle of the internet, you can view it normally here. 

This is the second time since I took over the dailies that I've done a sideways strip. The other one appeared during my first month on the job.

Mad Magazine's legendary fold-in artist, Al Jaffee, did a vertical comic strip called Tall Tales, which ran from 1957 to 1962. Mister Jaffee, who created more than 400 fold-ins, is still with us (and still drawing!) at age 98.

Don't forget to check out Dan Piraro's blog, and see what he has to say about this week's gags, and to marvel at his latest Bizarro Sunday page.

Oh, and let us know about your Halloween traditions in the comments section.

Bonus Track

Ronnie Cook & the Gaylords: The Goo Goo Muck

This is one of my all-time favorite Halloween tunes, and it was a staple here in Pittsburgh, thanks to our wildest DJ, Mad Mike Metro

Mad Mike introduced us to tons of obscure and crazy sounds, up until his passing on Halloween, 2000.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Tasty Newsprint

A few days ago, I ventured outside of Bizarro Studios North and traveled to nearby Greensburg, PA, to see the Westmoreland Museum's current exhibit, Era of Cool: The Art of John Van Hammersveld.
Van Hammersveld has been working as a designer, illustrator, art director, typographer, and muralist for nearly 60 years, and it's likely that you have an example of his work somewhere in your home. In addition to designing the iconic movie poster for The Endless Summer in 1964, and many early psychedelic gig posters, he's responsible for over 300 LP covers, including Magical Mystery Tour and Exile on Main Street.

The Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators arranged for a group of members to attend an artist's reception at the museum, where we also saw a short documentary on JVH, Crazy World Ain't It.
JVH (in hat) with members of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators
Photo: Nancy Flury Carlson
Van Hammersveld graciously autographed posters, prints, and record covers, including my copy of a 1970 album by the novelty duo, The Pipkins.
He was surprised to see this, and apparently doesn't have a copy in his collection, because he snapped a couple photos for himself. Before heading to the event, I listened to the record, which I hadn't in over a decade. That should hold me for at least the next ten years. Great cover art, though.

Now, let's see what foolishness we unleashed on an unsuspecting world over the past week.

Of course, we all know that comics are the equal of classic literature, right?
I referred to a scan of a comics page dated February 6, 1970 to lend authenticity to the drawing.

I had a dream recently about buying something at a store where the cashier and counter were eight feet above floor level, and I had to climb a ladder to complete the transaction. Upon waking, I thought of the caption, but realized that such a scene would be tricky to draw (particularly for the strip layout), so I came up with this gag instead.

This practitioner decided on home schooling, since the college where he initially applied requires students to be current on their vaccinations. He apparently made the right choice, based on his stellar GPA.

The odd, reverse "L" shape of the panel art required a fair amount of shuffling to format the gag in its strip form, but it reads a little better in the end.

The three most important factors to consider when buying a home are location, location, and proximity to brains.

As we ease into October, and approach Halloween, expect several additional monstrous gags in this space. 

When hunting for treasure, you can't overlook any lead. This panel illustrates how well cats adapt to their human companions.

Coffee shops are prime spots to view all manner of live theater. Not long ago at a local cafe, I saw a piece of performance art that could have been titled Chest-Bumping Résumés. I'd like to thank the cast for helping me write Saturday's gag.

For even more sparkling comics commentary, check out Dan Piraro's blog, where he shares his thoughts on the latest batch, and unveils his latest widescreen Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

I cannot in good conscience share a video of The Pipkins, for fear of triggering a fatal earworm in one of our valued readers. Instead, here's a perky little ode to coffee, arranged by guitar great Billy Mure.

Mure was a prolific composer, arranger, and session musician, who released a series of wild instrumental albums in the late 1950s: Super-Sonic Guitars in Hi-Fi, Supersonic Guitars, Supersonics in Flight, and Supersonic Guitars Volume II.
Billy Mure, in an undated photo, probably from the 1950s
I've owned this record for years, but just noticed that it was produced and co-written by Sascha Burland, who's another fascinating character. Burland made a living writing jingles for commercials, but he loved jazz music. Shortly after the Chipmunks became popular, Burland formed a rival recording act called the Nutty Squirrels. Burland's Squirrels records also featured double-speed vocals, but instead of covering pop hits, they did vocal versions of Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker tunes. They'll probably appear on this blog at some point.