Saturday, October 24, 2020

Where the Gastropods and the Arthropods Play

Here at Bizarro Studios North, we're counting the days till Halloween, and wishing we still had these giant Yogi Bear masks from our youth.

I believe that's my youngest brother on the left, sitting beside me, and that we were photographed by our middle brother. I've always liked a costume that includes a necktie.

Moving from bears to trout, let's have a look at this week's comics.

Long before Facebook challenges to post images of favorite books, recordings, films, etc., BBC radio listeners heard the famous Desert Island Discs program. The weekly show, first broadcast in 1942, features a guest discussing eight recordings, one book, and one other luxury item they'd want to have if they were stranded on a desert island. Desert islands are a staple of gag comics, so this was a perfect springboard for a Bizarro gag.
The strip layout of this comic features a rarely-seen Bizarro Secret Symbol: The Floating Saucer of Possibility.

Many sharp-eyed readers (and fellow music nerds) noted that our castaway is holding a copy of Trout Mask Replica, the revolutionary 1969 double LP by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band. The fact that a tiny drawing of the album cover is immediately recognizable is a testament to Cal Schenkel's iconic design. Trout Mask was produced by Frank Zappa (possibly with minimal involvement) and was released on Zappa's Straight Records label.

Cal was Frank Zappa's main visual collaborator for many years, and created dozens of wonderful album covers as illustrator, designer, and photographer. I've admired Cal's art since I spotted this ad, which ran in Marvel comic books in 1967.

In this century, I've been lucky enough to have met Cal Schenkel, and become friends with him. I helped to arrange an exhibit and sale of his art here in Pittsburgh back in 2013. 

Wayno with Cal Schenkel at Get Hip Recordings, 2013

Cal was gracious and friendly to the many fans who brought records to be autographed, and he shared quite a few stories about his days of traveling with the likes of Zappa and the Mothers. We hope to have him back for another show when it's safe to do so. Until then, Cal has plenty of great art for sale through his website.

A final note on the comic: As of this writing, nobody has identified the record peeking up from front of the crate. I'll offer a hint: it's a more contemporary recording, and it's never been issued on vinyl, only on compact disc and digitally. I suppose that means this cartoon is set on Fantasy Island.

Every occupation has its hazards and temptations.

Wednesday's surreal western cartoon gave some readers pause. The gag was a simple play on the idea that a millipede is a long creature and that snails leave trails.

I took advantage of the strip's width to draw some additional segments on the millipede. If I were to reprint this one, I'd consider changing the second cowpoke's line to "Happy trail."

While writing today's post, I noticed that the character on the snail bears a resemblance to Frank Zappa. I don't recall making a conscious decision to do that, but he must have been on my mind as I drew this batch of cartoons.

With the emergence of social media, trolls have come out from under bridges to vex a wider audience.

Friday's panel depicts a Manhattan spa experience. New England hot tubs are thick and creamy.

I have nothing to add about the writing of this gag, but instead, offer an amusing bit of linguistic trivia. The Dutch word for glove is handschoen, a compound word which, when broken into its component parts, literally translates as hand shoe.

Thanks for visiting, and for your comments, emails, and reposts. Come by again next Saturday, which is a special occasion: Halloween day with a full moon. We'll continue our October 31 tradition of enjoying a pizza dinner at home while watching the 1983 film adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Don't forget to drop by Dan Piraro's blog, where you can see what he has to say about these cartoons (along with other, more interesting topics), view his latest Bizarro Sunday page, and catch with with the current episode of his graphic novel

Bonus Track 1

For Calvin (And his Next Two Hitch-Hikers)
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
from The Grand Wazoo, 1972


Zappa composed this piece for (and about) Cal Schenkel. The album cover features a wonderful, detailed drawing by Cal.

Photo courtesy of the Bizarro Studios North Archive

Bonus Track 2

Tropical Hot Dog Night
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
from Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), 1979

For those curious about the music of Captain Beefheart, Trout Mask Replica can be a daunting introduction. This recording, by a later incarnation of the band, offers a less threatening first taste.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Diagnosis: Tasty

This year continues spew forth a ridiculous number of outrageous news stories, week after week. Here's a tidbit you may have missed, as reported by the New York Times.

That explains the first gift request in his letter to Santa.

While we realize that it's become impossible to top the absurdity of real life, here are our latest attempts.

Be thankful the glow is bright enough to hide what's going on in that scrum of insects.

When seeking employment, one should do research on each occupation's hazards.

I have no idea what a timing belt does, but I've heard the term on "Car Talk." The engine compartment in this drawing is based on a couple of reference photos and pure, uninformed fantasy.

My Bizarro panels start off as scribbly digital sketches, like this one. I'll then place the printed sketch on a lightbox, and start penciling on Bristol paper.

Quite often, I prefer the intermediate penciled art over the finished, inked drawing. This pencil drawing looked as if it should be viewed through 3-D glasses.

Thursday's panel resonated with quite a few readers, as the months of sheltering in place have led many people to unleash their inner baker. For the record, I am awed by anyone who's able to create baked goods. The joke could have been about any hobby/obsession. Breadmaking served as a conveniently timely hook for the gag.

Halloween is now just two weeks away, so I figured it was time to start doing some spooky material. 

Remember, you never know what lies beneath an seemingly-ordinary exterior.

Every day, more of what we hear requires decoding, and George Orwell's work seems less fictional.

Thanks for checking out my latest work. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog, to see what's on his mind this week, and to admire his newest Bizarro Sunday page.

You should also follow Dan's surreal Western graphic novel, Peyote Cowboy. It's free to read online, and the latest episode is a double-length killer!

Bonus Track

The Kinks
(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman
From the album One for the Road (1980)

Some YouTube videos are unavailable outside the US

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Born to be Mild

Does every week in 2020 have to be weirder than the one before? The news was filled with scandal, sickness, and outrage, yet the most memorable character was a common housefly.

Before we started our cartoon work on Monday morning, we headed to our county elections office and submitted our ballot for the November election. Fingers are crossed here.

Let's see what emerged from Bizarro Studios North over the last six days.

This joke eluded some readers, since most vanity plates seem to be based on the omission of letters to suggest a word or phrase. Ours is, I believe, more elegant. To get this one, you simply have to pronounce each letter in sequence.

This might simply be someone acting out of an abundance of caution. Whatever the motivation, one must admire the character's ability to operate the remote control while wearing  those gloves.

The Law of the West establishes that every chuck wagon leader must be nicknamed either "Wishbone" or "Cookie."

One-eyed jacks don't have to put up with this kind of pressure.

Etiquette is important everywhere.

That was certainly my goal.

Thanks for taking time out from fretting about the future of the American Experiment to read a few cartoons. Please come back regularly.

Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog for additional commentary and another spectacular Bizarro Sunday page. 

Also, if you're not already hooked, I recommend checking out Dan "Diego" Piraro's surreal western graphic novel Peyote Cowboy. Every episode is available to read for free.

Bonus Track

(Some YouTube videos are not available outside the US)

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Designated Dummy

It's been yet another wild week, with current events more outrageous than anything on the funny pages. I wouldn't know where to start commenting on recent news, and would probably be unable to stop, so instead, I'll go directly to a review of this week's cartoons.

My favorite comment on Monday's gag came from award-winning cartoonist Vince Dorse:

Vince has been doing an entertaining series of videos where he tries out various art materials and techniques. You can follow Vince on Twitter, too.

Tuesday's comic presented a variation on a common cartoon setup, and benefited from coincidental timing. It appeared the day after news broke regarding a certain political figure's federal tax history.

The sculpture shown in the lower right corner is Virgil Partch's comic character Big George. Partch was a prolific and hilarious cartoonist, and is hugely admired here at Bizarro Studios North.
He even looked like a cartoon character.

Can a jester have a successful career if his marotte no longer resembles him? 

The castle's staff are betting on whether the job will open up due to retirement or attrition.

If a crash test dummy is your designated driver, you may have a problem. As usual, we put our favorite of the batch in the Friday slot.

I like to imagine that shoemakers stopped calling themselves cobblers because of the word's other meaning.

Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog for more shop talk, and to check out his newest Bizarro Sunday page.

Dan's online graphic novel, Peyote Cowboy, is really getting interesting now. You can read every episode for free, and if you'd like to help him keep doing it, you can support the project on Patreon

That's all from BSN this week. Thanks, as always, for reading Bizarro, and for commenting and sharing.

Bonus Track

Some YouTube videos may not be available outside the US




Saturday, September 26, 2020

All You Can Borp

Autumn arrived this week, and 2020 continued to deliver horrible news. We lost Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an inspiring and exemplary human being, and Ron Cobb, a great editorial cartoonist who went on to other careers as a film designer and director before retiring to Australia. We don't need any more reminders of the fragility of human life, not to mention democracy.

There's work to do, and important responsibilities to meet (please remember to vote, my friends!), but don't forget to allow yourself time for small pleasures. This week, I encountered a delightful notice posted near our home.

I think I've found a new rule to live by: No favorite houses to be favored.

Here's a look at our most recent comics. It's our sincere hope that these daily cartoon offerings provide a moment of relief or distraction from the avalanche of stressful events.

Note that these travelers are watched over by their chosen figure of worship, represented by a dashboard effigy. This explains why peanuts are part of their rites of communion.

My first sketch was based on a photo of a squirrel stuffing its face. My partner/editor, Dan Piraro, suggested that the cheeks should be twice as big, crowding the driver’s space. That helped deliver the gag, although it involved more brushwork on my part.

Also, who remembers buffets?

Postscript: The squirrel gag inspired a wonderful response. The 5-year-old daughter of a Bizarro reader drew her own version of the characters, and added a second panel to the story. I'm pleased to share these works, with parental permission.

We now know that when squirrels are overstuffed, the sound they make is "BORP."

Tuesday's gag illustrates how a delicate surgical procedure can go wrong.
Creating the strip version was a little tricky, since the panel relies on vertical space, but we managed to reconfigure the image, albeit with a less dramatic spurt.
Source: NBC News
The text was inspired by a hilariously illiterate quote from a bigoted imbecile. His malapropism was reported in multiple publications, including one online rag sympathetic to his retrograde opinion, so I'm confident that it's exactly what he said.
Speaking of unique pronunciation, here's Wednesday's offering.
The final drawing is simply a cleaned-up version of the sketch. The hyphen in the caption is a subtle but crucial addition.
Horror comes in many flavors. 
This should have run on Monday, which I just learned was King's birthday.
I enjoyed researching photos for the panel, and discovered some adorable pictures of the future novelist.
I combined elements of these two images for our Bizarro portrayal of little Stephen.
In a parallel dimension, King could have been cast in a 1960s sitcom.
As the saying goes, "Hyenas gonna hyena."
Sheltering in place has taught me that I can get by without a haircut for several months, but eyebrows are another matter.
Thanks for reading Bizarro, and for your thoughtful comments and emails. Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog for more discussion of recent cartoons and current events. While you're there, you can check out his newest Sunday Bizarro page, and read every episode of his surreal western graphic novel, Peyote Cowboy.

Bonus Track

Note: Some videos are not available outside the US