Saturday, October 20, 2018

Hipster Cuisine

As an early Halloween gift to Bizarro readers, we kick off today's post with a cartoon that disgorges treats when you beat it with a stick.

At least the little generalissimo allowed his prisoner one final candy cigarette.

This cartoon is the second pi├▒ata-based gag of the year. The first one ran in January, when I'd just come aboard as your daily cartoonist. My inaugural weekly Bizarro blog post featured that gag, plus two naughty rejects.

On the plus side, his migraine's gone.

I encountered this unintentional pun in a poorly-written Yelp review, which I wish I had bookmarked. The angry consumer wrote that their server responded to a complaint "like a deer in the headlines."

The most enjoyable aspect of working on this gag was drawing the beloved cartoon character after he'd gone to seed.

I originally wrote this one in 2011, as part of a batch I submitted for one of my stints as Bizarro's guest cartoonist.
We selected different gags for my guest week, and I slid this image into a "use later" file. I'd forgotten all about it until a few weeks ago, and decided I should do a finished version. 

Although the sketch is dated "18-13-12," the actual tag in the digital file is March 21, 2011.

This is a true farm-to-table restaurant, with no stops along the way.

My initial sketch showed the waiter carrying a smiling piglet, which seemed more upsetting than funny, so we replaced it with a full-grown, indifferent hog.
The strip configuration of this cartoon worked out well, with the dialog interrupting the image, so the pig is the last element the reader discovers.

Some people like to sit on a giant exercise ball while they work. Some prefer a standing desk, while others have treadmills or stationary bikes at their work spaces.

I once knew a guy who really did keep a sleeping bag beneath his desk. When he crawled in and pulled his chair up close, you could walk right by his cubicle and not know he was there, as long as he didn't snore.

As always, thanks for reading Bizarro. Be sure to cruise over to Dan Piraro's blog, to catch up with his latest Sunday page, and read his pithy comments on this week's gag.

Bonus Track of the Week

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Four Strings, No Waiting

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. It's time to celebrate Harvest Season with the latest crop of cartoons from the rooftop garden at Bizarro Studios North.
Monday's offering depicts a situation that occurs in countless corporate break rooms on a regular basis. Think before you tweet, folks, unless of course you're a high elected official with the impulse control of an infant.

I wrote and rewrote follow-up remarks on this gag, but discarded them because they all sounded gruesome. We'll let the cartoon stand on its own this time.

Our metallic hero isn't secure enough to admit that he enjoys something others see as inept or amateurish. At least he makes his own snarky comments, and doesn't rely on scripted surrogate observers to do it for him.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) was directed and produced by cult figure Ed Wood Jr., who was well-known for his love of angora sweaters. At the turn of this century, I had an assignment to do 150 celebrity portraits for Rhino Records. Most of the images were musical recording artists, but the gig also included a drawing of Ed Wood, which I must say turned out pretty nicely.

The day this comic ran, a friend pointed out that October 10 is actually Ed Wood's birthdate. I didn't know this when scheduling the comic, but was pleased to learn of the weird coincidence.
I had a lot of fun sprinkling Bizarro Secret Symbols throughout this panel, particularly the Inverted Bird. I also enjoyed coloring the Bunny of Exuberance and the Lost Loafer. Next time I'm facing a tight deadline, I just might color a full week of cartoons using this technique.

Simpsons creator Matt Groening is often quoted as saying that the secret of designing cartoon characters is that they should be instantly recognizable in silhouette. Gumby's creator Art Clokey hit on this too, and supposedly modeled the character's slanted head after a photo of his own father sporting an asymmetrical haircut, which is surprisingly similar to Ed Wood's coiffure above.

I, too, believe that cartoon characters should be recognizable by silhouette, but not to each other. 

In a second accidental tribute, I just learned that the day this cartoon ran was Art Clokey's  birthday (October 12, 1921).

In addition to cartooning, I also perform with a musical trio. All three of us are such self-doubting neurotics that each one constantly worries about being fired by the the other two.

Some readers incorrectly assume that whenever I draw a hipster type character with a handlebar mustache, I'm portraying my partner-in-cartooning, Dan Piraro. Similarly, when I draw a dandified nerd holding a ukulele, it's not (necessarily) a self-portrait.

That wraps up another week of jocularity. You'd be well advised to pop on over to Dan Piraro's blog to read his observations on the week's comics, and to see what he's cooked up for Sunday's widescreen Bizarro

Since moving to Mexico, Dan's also been creating some amazing paintings featuring surreal depictions of costumed wrestlers. His online shop now features his Lucky Luchador Enamel Pin, which is a thing of beauty.

Bonus Track

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Flip, Flop, & Fly

It's October, Jazz Pickles! The weather at Bizarro Studios North in scenic Hollywood Gardens has been weirdly warm for this time of year, and while we're enjoying the brief return of summer, it feels a little ominous.

Superman has his own complaints about warmer temperatures, as well as the demise of old-fashioned phone booths. His super-sense of smell isn't always an asset.

I drew this gag back in August. If I were doing it today, I'd have some better photo reference for the "something stinks" face.

On second thought, maybe this guy wouldn't be such a good model. I don't believe he represents truth, justice, or the American way.

This kind of thing happens to every tourist walking the English countryside, if one believes horror films. The foreboding pub sign has been a cliche for a long time.
John Landis tweaked this trope in his 1981 film, An American Werewolf in London.

Wednesday's gag is an example of the "Rule of Three" for humor writing, which posits that a trio of similar things is the most effective number for delivering a story or joke. Some speculate that it's because three is the smallest number that establishes a pattern, and economy in writing is always preferred.

This wasn't planned, but suddenly, it looks like Hikers in Peril Week here at Bizarro. This technique for looking your best in a selfie has been confirmed by Cosmopolitan, so it must be true.

Perhaps more humans should follow Wolfie's lead and own up to the fact that they simply like camouflage as a fashion statement. Imagine the reduction in accidental shootings.

Saturday's cartoon is for the typography nerds among my friends and readers.

Thanks for reading and commenting. Be sure to check out Dan Piraro's weekly blog for his comments on this week's gags, and to read his latest magnificent Sunday page.

Bonus Track

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Puttin' On The Ritz

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. It's a hectic day here at BSN. My musical colleagues and I are loading up equipment and steaming our suits for tonight's gig celebrating the release of our debut CD.
The Red Beans & Rice Combo
(l-r) Dave Klug, Wayno, Tom Roberts
We wish you could all be here for the fun. If you'd like to check us out (and support your local cartoonist), the album is available at Amazon, CD Baby, Itunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

Now that my commercial is out of the way, let's review the week in cartoons.

The dummy's name is Marshall Stax. 

My initial sketch took a weirdly different approach to the idea of a very large dummy.
We decided to scrap that first version, because you almost never see a left-handed ventriloquist.

When a dog or cat loses its collar, 97.5 percent of pet owners will joke that their animal is naked. That's a known fact.

I once threw a plumber out of my house, after he'd written a $17,000 repair estimate without for an ordinary clog (later remedied within 10 minutes by a non-thieving professional). Weeks later, a hapless employee of the crooked company called to ask me to take a customer satisfaction survey. It didn't go well.

Dog-whistling often attracts the wrong followers, and their stench is nearly impossible to scrub away, but apparently it's a hard habit to break. Just saying.

A waiter and customer attempt to out-curate each other in this hipsterish display of metaphorical chest thumping.
In case you were wondering, our man's Leporine Jazz album is, of course, a mono promotional copy on the Pickle Records label.

Serving suggestion photos are the original misleading profile pictures. The cereal boxes of my childhood years are largely responsible for my deep-seated cynicism.

As always, sincere thanks to those who read and comment on Bizarro, those who share the comic without altering the art or cropping out the credit line, and especially to those who put up with my weekly blog posts.

Please also check out Dan Piraro's blog, for his insightful analysis of the week's gags, and to admire his latest Sunday page. That's also where you can snag official Bizarro swag.

Bonus Track

A favorite selection from the Captain.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Warmup at the OK Corral

Happy Saturday, pardners. I reckon it's time for a roundup of this here week's cartoon pictures.

We started off with a bit of limbering up, and some cowboy lingo, an unbeatable combination. 

Tuesday's cartoon features rare appearances by both Quasimodo's American cousin and the sideways copyright notice. 

This gag involved more photo research than I'd anticipated.

Note: This cartoon contains no Secret Symbols.
A fable in one panel, offering lessons on greed, impatience, and learning from one's mistakes.

Take that, Aesop.

This gag baffled a few readers. It's a slightly different take on the familiar humorous device representing a person struggling with temptation by showing the "good" and "bad" personalities on their shoulders. In this case, it's recast with a credit card as the protagonist, a joker (wild card) as the devil, and an employee ID as the angel.

Okay, maybe it is a weird premise.

By way of commentary on Friday's Bizarro, let us revisit a favorite quote from the late Jay Kennedy:
“ the fine arts, artists generally comment on the world only obliquely; and sadly, only those people who have the leisure to study art history can fully appreciate their comments. By contrast, cartoons are an art form accessible to all people. They can simply laugh at the jokes or look beyond them to see the artist’s view of the world. Cartoons are multi-leveled art accessible to everyone at whatever level they choose to enjoy.”
I once noticed a container of cookie-dough ice cream at the market, and it struck me as an odd concept. I obsessed about the idea, and couldn't let go of it until I put it into a cartoon. An early note in my sketchbook on this idea said "tomato paste sandwich," which I wisely crossed out.

For more insight and commentary on this week's comics, check out Dan Piraro's blog, and admire his latest magnificent Sunday page.

Bonus Track of the Week

"Blue Shadows on the Trail" Bing Crosby (1947)

I grew up in the era of the TV western, and my father tuned in to them all. My brothers and I had to play quietly while Dad watched his "shoot-em-ups." As a result, my musical DNA includes the popular culture's take on cowboy tunes, which has varying degrees of overlap with reality. I enjoy everything from Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western scores to the corniest hokum from movies and television.

This song was written in 1946 by Eliot Daniel and Johnny Lange, and was recorded by the Sons of the Pioneers (with and without Roy Rogers), Gene Autry, and others. Bing Crosby's take is a favorite.

Forty Years later, Randy Newman wrote a song titled "Blue Shadows on the Trail," for the John Landis film Three Amigos. Newman's (lesser) composition borrows the exact melody of the titular line from the 1946 song, but he apparently got full writing credit, without acknowledging the source material. 

My research is incomplete, and if Newman has in fact credited Daniel & Lange, reference to that would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

No Direction Home

This has been a week of sad memories, both national and personal, horrific weather events, and the "normal" onslaught of short-sighted, self-serving presidential shenanigans. We hope that we are able to offer some moments of relief in the form of a laugh or two amid trying times.

Fairy tales often function as allegories, and their familiar characters and stories offer cartoonists a handy framework for commenting on general human behavior, as well as specific events and situations. Any modern political subtext you might infer from Monday's Bizarro is purely intentional.

Old technology sometimes has its advantages.

The headlight response is difficult to overcome, even for an experienced professional.

This gag turned out to be well suited to the strip layout, once I decided to put the directors in a balcony box.
Since we believe that most readers' eyes travel a path from upper left to lower right, we try to place the payoff element (in this comic, the dual shadows) in the bottom right corner. In this example, the strip layout flows in that direction quite smoothly. Panels, or conventional pages, are usually assumed to be read in a "Z" pattern, and the panel conforms to that path.

The following diagrams show my estimations of the reader's discovery of each part of the gag from setup to payoff.
It's certainly not a science, but I think these are pretty close for most readers. 

The Senatus Romanus was established around 700 BC, and lasted in some form until the middle of the 15th century. That would place our fictional holdout's age at somewhere around 600, making him one of the oldest senators currently serving.

I'm not sure if it's a pun in the generally accepted sense, but I've done a few gags using this form of wordplay, where a letter is added to or subtracted from a word, resulting in a different (but comically appropriate) meaning.

We close out the week with a straight-up bro gag. My favorite aspect of this drawing is the background detail showing the Pie of Opportunity on a discarded pizza box. The word "pizza" above the illustration helps to conceal the symbol, or at least delay its recognition. The human brain is fascinating, at least the ones that function.

Interestingly, this gag is not my first time designing a pizza box.

Do yourself a favor and check out Dan Piraro's blog, for his scholarly analysis of the week's gags, and his latest magnificent Sunday page. Pick up some cool Bizarro swag while you're there, too.

Bonus Track of the Week
Ralph Carney, "Lament for Charleston"

This week, I'm sharing a powerful composition by my friend Ralph Carney, which he wrote in response to one of this country's all-too-familiar mass shootings. 

Ralph died unexpectedly on December 16, 2017. He's been on my mind a lot over this past week, since Friday marked one year since I last saw him.
Photo by Megan Hinchcliffe
September 14, 2017
, Pittsburgh PA

RIP Ralphie

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Bird is the Word

It's September already? My first year as the daily Bizarro cartoonist is flying by. Every day is a learning experience, and I feel I'm settling into a groove. Almost.

Always check your pockets and hidden compartments.

A few readers commenting on the King Features site have assumed that any character with a goatee and mustache is meant to represent Dan Piraro. In fact, I have only drawn him into one Bizarro panel:
Dan is, of course, the tall dog.

Tuesday's cartoon is dedicated to all librarians, educators, and independent booksellers. The work you do is more important than ever. Thank you.

Even guinea pigs fret about details when entertaining guests.

Thursday's gag went through a few changes along the way to publication.
The first rough depicted a depressing gallery of barflies contrasted against a large "happy hour" sign. Not bad, but we wanted to dig a little deeper for a gag.
The second sketch was more satisfying, with a bar full of patrons giving the stink-eye to one customer who seemed a little too happy. This was a subtler approach to the idea of happy hour not actually being about happiness, but the panel was crowded with ten characters. If we'd gone with this image, the giddy customer would have been so small as to be easily missed. I went back to the original staging, with four customers seated at the bar, and placed the punchline character on the right-hand side of the panel.

The Friday spot is usually reserved for my favorite gag of the week. I like the economy of this one, with just four words of dialog. I've said in the past that a good single panel gag cartoon is like a punk rock 45. It's direct, it has no unnecessary frills, it makes its statement, and it ends. This one comes closest to that goal this week.

As summer winds down, we finish the week with a look at two approaches to a day at the beach.

For additional insight into the week's cartoonery, check out Dan Piraro's blog. While you're there, you can marvel at his latest Sunday Bizarro page, and order some official swag from his shop.

I also invite you to follow my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds, for your daily Bizarro fix, along with whatever other random item momentarily captures my attention.

Bonus Track of the Week
The title of this week's post was inspired by the pigeons that appeared on Monday and Friday, and quotes a lyric from the garage-rock classic "Surfin' Bird." The song, as performed by the Trashmen, was originally released in 1963, and it's been covered by many artists, including The Cramps, Pee-Wee Herman, and the Ramones.

Here's a version you may not have heard, by some friends of mine known as the Psychotic Petunias. The Petunias were a mysterious studio-only band who released their lone single in 1978 on Mayhem Records. Vocals on this side were performed by J.R. Bird. 

Yes, that's his real name.

The Petunias made at least one additional recording, in 1979. A certain aspiring cartoonist and wannabe musician participated in that session, on vocals and keyboard. The single was never officially released, although three copies of a test pressing were made.
The record pressing plant pasted a typewritten label on the plain white sleeve, which mistakenly referred to the band as The Phycolic Petunias. 

In recent years, unconfirmed rumors have circulated regarding a reissue of all of the Petunias' recordings, but as of this writing, that hasn't happened.