Saturday, May 19, 2018

Smoke Rings

Another Saturday, another comics recap from Bizarro Studios North.
Cartoonists love the therapist/patient scenario. After all, we base a lot of humor on observed human behavior. Although plenty of people have imaginary friends, it's a rare (financially solvent) psychologist who has imaginary patients.

I had a vague notion about cigarette, candy or coffee machines, and other such conveniences as simple forms of robots. I reasoned that if they were to develop self-awareness, they might also have varying degrees of job satisfaction depending on the relative glamour of their assigned functions.
My first stab at exploring this idea didn't really make me laugh, although I quite liked the image of a gumball machine robot with wheels skittering around a space station to serve the children on board.
I set my next draft in a bar, a place where patrons regularly discuss their troubles. It was a little better, but not quite there yet. 

However, the bar setting gave me the idea that a gumball machine robot, even a successful one, would only have quarters on hand to pay for its drink. The logical companion would be an automated teller, who can spit out currency all night. Once I had the ATM in the picture, it worked much better. 

The next one underwent less radical changes on its way to print.

We love to pay comical homage to surrealist painter Rene Magritte. Dan Piraro's Bizarro Archive even has the artist's name as a search term to pull up all of his appearances in the comic. We're equally taken with the 1964 painting The Son of Man (a self-portrait with a green apple floating in front of his face) and 1929's The Treachery of Images (often called This is Not a Pipe.)

This past December, I referenced The Son of Man in a gag I wrote for Hilary Price's Rhymes with Orange comic.
Getting back to the subject of revisions as part of the cartooning process, my original sketch of Wednesday's Bizarro included a Piraro-like figure as the surrealist. I'm happy with the final version of the comic, but must admit I was looking forward to drawing and coloring that chunk of amber.

All too often, human speech is used to conceal our true intentions, whether from ourselves or from others. As a cartoonist, I sometimes turn that around and show a character explicitly stating their actual underlying message. The dialog in this cartoon was taken almost verbatim from an attorney discussing jury selection for a recent high-profile (and long overdue) trial.

Writing and drawing comics, like any creative endeavor, is really all about editing. We're always pleased when we manage to reduce a punchline to one or two word (and are absolutely ecstatic when we create a wordless gag). 

When staging the art, we also think about how the reader's eye will "track" through a panel. We assume most readers scan top-to-bottom and left-to-right, and we try to put the payoff in the lower right corner of the panel.
The diagram above shows my best guess for the order in which the elements this gag are revealed to the reader.

We wrap up the week with heartwarming shelter story, reminding us that every animal is beautiful to someone. To contrast with the adorable puppies, I drew Godzilla's offspring as a miniature version of the terrifying monster, and not the cutesy-poo goofball that appeared in the 1960s movies.
The theme music was the best part of Son of Godzilla, but that's a low bar.

Coincidentally, my first self-published comic, an eight page mini from 1985, parodied the Son of Godzilla character. 
I like to think that my drawing and writing have improved over the past 30-odd years. If any readers of this blog have a copy of this book, you are welcome to return it to me for a double-your-money back refund.

Don't forget to cruise over to Dan Piraro's blog to get the perspective on this week's gags from Rancho Bizarro, Mexico, and to admire his latest Sunday panel.

Earworm of the Week 
Björk - Human Behavior (1993)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Fast Food

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. I'm going to try and keep this update brief, since it's the opening day of our community's farm market and I don't want to miss out on the first offerings of the season. Besides, there's a local distillery who offers free samples at their table.

Monday's gag is dedicated to my cartooning colleagues. Most of us probably heard comments about applying ourselves our whole lives. I'm fairly certain that phrase turned up on a few of my old report cards. 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job doing the daily Bizarro is having Dan Piraro as collaborator and editor. Early in the week, I create a pile of cartoon sketches and send them to Dan so we can discuss them and decide which ones make the cut. My first sketch of this one showed the Little Engine with a cigarette drooping from his mouth.
Dan suggested we move his cigarette to the rim of the smokestack, which gave us even more room for a lazy wisp of smoke. It's a small, but brilliant revision.

By the way, little engines make terrible pets, and are very hard on furniture.

There was some online speculation regarding what type of car is depicted in this comic. It bears a passing resemblance to a Volvo P1800, but perhaps this tag found in the glove box offers a clue:
(Posted with apologies to my fellow Italian-Americans)

Mama Calamari knows best, but kids rarely listen.
A friend of mine noted that the young squid was considerably more scared in the strip layout.

This gag features an old and very odd toy. They're still for sale, under the names Bug Out Bob and Panic Pete. The comments and questions on the Amazon product pages are worth checking out.

Continuing our tradition of poking fun at superheroes, we extend our ridicule to the citizens of Metropolis, who always need three guesses to identify their most famous citizen. He finally had enough and confronted them about it, but they still look confused. It's no wonder the guy has identity issues.

We round out the week with a variation on a classic cartoon theme of a person crawling through the desert. I enjoyed drawing the buzzards.

This week, I hit a bit of a milestone in my new role here at Bizarro Studios North, and finished the 150th cartoon under my authorship. 

The stack of 150 originals was lovingly placed in an archival storage box. Yes, I stamp the date on each original drawing and number it in the corner.

Putting the lid on the box reminded me to pause to thank Dan for trusting me to fill in the rectangle every day, and to thank every Bizarro reader for following, sharing, and commenting.

For even more behind the scenes commentary, pop on over to Dan's blog, and while you're there, gaze in wonder at his Sunday panel, and treat yourself to some Bizarro swag.

See you next week!

Saturday, May 05, 2018

The Good, The Bad, & The Creamy

Howdy, pardners. It's time for the weekly cartoon recap from Bizarro Studios North, so let's jump right in.

Monday's gag indulges my fondness for spaghetti westerns, which initially drew me in with their peculiar and haunting soundtrack music. The best-known composer in this genre (probably the greatest living composer in any category) is Ennio Morricone. Even if you don't know his name, it's a safe bet that you'd recognize his iconic theme from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The explanation above is, of course, more than you need to know to get a laugh out of the gag, but any time I see an opportunity to go on about Morricone's music, I grab it.

Tuesday's comic is a simple and straightforward riff on a culinary trend that's mostly quite sensible. The art includes a rare appearance by the Bunny of Exuberance. Among Bizarro's Secret Symbols, the bunny is the trickiest one to draw. I try to avoid him, but sometimes he insists. If I balk at putting him into a comic, he hovers over me and threatens to overturn my ink bottle until I relent.

Goldilocks was incredibly picky, considering she'd broken into a house, helped herself to everything, and expected woodland creatures to anticipate her preferences. Baby Bear makes a valid point. You are free to find layers of commentary in this cartoon, if you're so inclined.

Today's offering reproduces a cave painting discovered in a grotto beneath a location that we now know as 4 Times Square.

Readers who count the Secret Symbols in Bizarro cartoons may see a discrepancy in this one. The number five appears by the signatures, but some people will count six. One of the characters in the cave painting is in fact pierced by the Arrow of Vulnerability, but we chose not to count it in the Secret Symbol total, since that detail would probably be impossible to spot in the ever-shrinking newsprint version of the cartoon. 

If you came up with a total of six symbols, give yourself extra credit for excellent eyesight.

Friday's gag is completely absurd, yet somehow strangely, believable. I've never been able to grow much of a beard, so I just might get a troll doll to see it it improves my concentration. But not this one.

This pun only works if you use the American pronunciation of Tintin's name, so I offer preemptive apologies to readers around the world for whom it makes no sense.

Thank you for reading and commenting, and for sharing Bizarro on your social media platforms, bulletin boards, and refrigerator doors. Every Sunday, Dan Piraro posts his own comments on the week's cartoons from our world HQ in Rancho Bizarro, Mexico, and shares his latest glorious Sunday panel.

Dan has also started a new Instagram feed where he shares his ultra-fine art. There are some early works, as well as amazing new pieces he's creating for an upcoming art exhibit. I highly recommend surfing over to IG and following @DiegoPiraro.

Earworm for the Week

Ennio Morricone's Main Title theme from A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

A Chip Off the Old Brimstone

The weekly review from Bizarro Studios North
Monday's wordless gag may have confused readers who get their daily Bizarro fix from newspapers that run the strip version, particularly those printing their comics at the scale of a fortune cookie message. I had trouble seeing it, and I already knew the gag.
It's an odd, transitional era for daily comics. Online readers can see details in the art, and have the option to click to an enlarged image. Newspapers, on the other hand, are running comics at ever-smaller sizes, and the printing process introduces "funk" when color images are converted to halftone dots. Art with fine detail and saturated can start to look muddy, even when magnified.
We keep that in mind, and try to avoid making any important parts of the art too small to decipher on newsprint. It's a balancing act. Perhaps we should start drawing with broad point Sharpies.

Think twice before saying you'd do anything to leave your job. One has to admire this employee's commitment and follow-through. He's hoping for a positive reference when his new employer checks up on his history.

Rex is trying to exploit the common belief about dog years to help with his checkers game. The temporal advantage is probably unnecessary, since he'd just won four consecutive Scrabble games.

Thursday's comic serves as a gentle reminder to check in with your attorney when deciding which giant animal costume to wear at your trial.

A friend commented on Facebook about this cartoon's "multiple levels of insanity." That could become a new plea: Not guilty by reason of multiple levels of insanity." 

My first sketch of this one referred to ladybugs, but we decided that if the beard of insects was red, it would telegraph the gag, and almost make the text redundant. Also, I was too lazy to draw that many ladybugs.

This is a simple gag referring to a common phrase. Our favorite part is the elephant's apprehensive expression. 

The detail above shows a little reward I gave myself. This was the 100th comic I've drawn since I started working on the 2018 dailies. As I complete each inked original, I write a sequence number in the corner of the art board. 

I felt pretty good about this milestone until I realized I had 212 more to go this year.

Last week, we jumped into a new digital stream. There's now a Bizarro channel on Apple News, for those readers with devices on the iOS platform. It's an excellent way to view the comics. The image on your iPhone is probably bigger than the one in your local newspaper.

Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog to check his comments on this week's gags, see the latest gorgeous Sunday panel, and shop for Bizarro swag.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Slap in the Facebook, or, There's a Zuckerberg Every Minute

Welcome to the latest update from Bizarro Studios North. Here's a look back at this week's cartoon offerings.

We started the week with a timely gag, commenting on recent revelations about our online privacy, or lack thereof. Maybe "confirmation" is a more apt description than "revelation," since we've all at least noticed targeted ads on our social media pages. Some people even claim that ads pop up for things they've discussed, but didn't search for online, believing that apps on their phones are listening in on offline conversations.

Quite a few people shared this one, so we can all probably expect to hear from bail bond agencies offering their services.

Tuesday's cartoon includes a ride through the Uncanny Valley. That term usually describes humanoid objects that appear almost, but not quite like actual human beings, but it can also apply to artificial voices. I find talking apps that are programmed to sound conversational or make jokes to be particularly disturbing.

Speaking of self-driving cars and odd near-resemblances, Google named their self-driving car division "Waymo," which has resulted in occasional confusion as shown below.
Source: Wazobia Global Times
Source: CBS News
These are actual, unaltered screen captures. We once even received a phone call from some news organization wanting to write about this particular technology. I declined to comment.

After completing this cartoon, I was surprised to find that the term Compassion Deficit Disorder is not new, and was coined by Diane E. Levin, professor of early childhood education at Wheelock College in Boston, to describe children who act without empathy or regard for others. There's probably something to it, at least as applied to kids who have been influenced to act that way. Unfortunately, "CDD" seems to have become a dominant characteristic of far too many adults, particularly among those in seats of power.

Here we present a Bizarro twist on a familiar cartoon trope. We're not sure how Yoga Mom & Dad ended up in front of a firing squad, but you must admire their commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

Friday's gag is my favorite of the week. When laying out a weekly sequence, I usually put the one I feel is strongest in the Friday slot. Dan Piraro and I are both animal lovers, but we also understand that our dogs and cats are playing us. This one was a true collaboration. My original sketch included the line about big, sad, dewy eyes. Dan added the "slight cock of the head," which really nailed it.

My first caption for this one was was "Infantile Court." But, we decided to go with the actual phrase "Juvenile Court." By current standards, the behavior depicted in this gag is positively statesmanlike.

Be sure to go to Dan's blog for his thoughts on this batch of Bizarritude, his always-spectacular Sunday comic, and a link to the Bizarro Shop, where you can purchase beautiful enamel pins, t-shirts, mugs and other Jazz Pickle Essentials.

Look for me on Facebook, if I haven't been removed by their goon squad.

Addendum: About That Title

The title for this week's post pays tribute to one of my favorite animated cartoons, Jay Ward's The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Each storyline ran over multiple episodes, ending with a cliffhanger situation. The series' announcer, William Conrad, would then tee up the next segment with a pair of titles, usually involving obscure pop culture references and terrible puns. A typical example would be Conrad's emphatic reminder to "Tune in again next time, for The Snowman Cometh, or, An Icicle Built for Two!"

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Old MacDonald Had Some Issues

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. It's time for another recap of the week's cartoons from the offices of Bizarro Studios North, in Hollywood Gardens, Pennsylvania.

The week kicked off with a bit of wordplay, based on a mishearing of the common phrase "inpatient surgery." The lead physician here was in such a hurry, he didn't bother to wear his face mask. Before going to medical school, he worked with a pit crew at a raceway.

Tuesday's cartoon is one of those "there's two kinds of people in the world" observations, and it takes place in an imagined anteroom for the recently departed. Any resemblance between the unhappy new arrival and a particular syndicated cartoonist is purely coincidental.

This one is a subtle marketing survey in disguise. Right now we're analyzing readers' comments, as we plan our initial sales offering of official Bizarro beard-ribbons. They're perfect for all formal occasions.

Orion is certainly a good sport, isn't he? While doing research for this gag (to confirm the correct number of stars) I learned that Orion's Belt is an example of an asterism. That's an astronomy term describing a pattern or group of stars having a popular name, but not large enough to be considered a constellation. As of this writing, I've been unable to find a definition of the minimum number of stars to qualify as a constellation, but I'd bet some Bizarro readers know the answer.

The day after the Galaxy Awards, country singer Ramblin' Slim Bodine gave a concert on the very same stage. Although his lyrics refer to modern concerns, Slim considers himself an old-school performer, and has been known to rant against "mirrored-sunglass-wearin', headset-singin' frat-bro poseurs." Ticket sales for the show were weak, and Slim had to vacuum the aisles after the show to cover his advance payment.

Cartoonists often use humor to explore subjects that may not be inherently funny. In the real world, obsessive and/or compulsive behaviors can range from a mild inconvenience to major obstacles to life, work, and relationships. At some time or other, we all exhibit some of those tendencies.

Laughing at life's tragedies is an ancient human tradition that can have psychological benefits. Many situations routinely appearing in cartoons would be unpleasant (at best) if experienced in real life: being stranded on an island, cracking one's head on the ground after trying to kick a football, or meeting the Grim Reaper. 

The cartoon is not meant to minimize anyone's difficulties, but rather to acknowledge our common struggles as human beings, and, hopefully, to remind us that sometimes a laugh helps to mitigate their power over us. 

Also, hearing that song all the way through could send anyone to their therapist.

Well, that's more than enough amateur psychology for an ink-jockey to put in one blog post, wouldn't you say?

Until next Saturday, please keep reading and commenting, be good to yourself and your friends, and be sure to read Dan Piraro's weekly blog for his thoughts on the week's gags, and to see his glorious Sunday comic.