Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Jah, Humbug!

Here's a twist on a familiar scene from a seasonal favorite:
Charles Dickens' best-known work has been updated, recast, and restaged countless times, and we're happy to add our version to the canon, with Jacob Marley's distant great-great-nephew Bob filling in for him.

Here's the concept sketch I submitted to Dan Piraro:
Interestingly, my sketch shows an elevated view of the scene, which was partly inspired by Dan's style, while his finished art employs a straight-on eye-level camera angle, which is my usual default.

Please feel free to revisit the ghosts of cartoons past in this blog's Bizarro Index.

This is a good time to thank you once again for reading the comics and this blog, and for everyone's feedback, support, encouragement, and wisecracks.

Whatever holiday(s) you may celebrate, I hope they're all enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Archetype, there's a cliché in my trope."

Today's Bizarro comic tears down and rebuilds a time-honored cartoon motif.
Just about every cartoonist has done some variation of the "fly in my soup" setup. In fact, Dan and I just published one last week. Today's offering utilizes the comic panel form itself to comment on the idea of such a gag.

The final art is staged very much like the submission sketch, but Dan did a better job of maintaining consistency within the cartoon's logic by putting a suit and tie on the customer. In my version, the diner is naked, which is simply not credible.
This self-referential approach, which both questions and answers the very concept of the cartoon, may seem overly intellectual or esoteric. Therefore, as a palate cleanser (or palate soiler), we present the same drawing with different text for a no-nonsense lowbrow laugh. It's not publishable in a daily paper, but perhaps could have appeared in the old National Lampoon.
My next team-up with Mister Piraro will appear on Xmas Eve, and our many previous joint efforts are viewable in this blog's Bizarro index.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dealer Incentives

This Sunday's Bizarro comic is yet another clown-based joke.
Bizarro ringmaster Dan Piraro and I both love a good clown gag. I believe we share the same feeling about clowns: we're not afraid of them, we just don't like them.

The submission sketch was formatted for a regular daily panel. The final art follows the same general staging, but Dan gave it his full-on Sunday treatment, which is spectacular, as always.
As mentioned above, clowns appear in many of our gags. Here's a look at our other polka-dotted funnies.
Our growing pile of collaborations is archived in this blog's Bizarro Index.

Coming up on Wednesday: a meta-gag.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Mmm Mmm, Good

Today's Bizarro cartoon revisits a time-honored gag motif: a fly in someone's soup.
In this scenario, the fly is no accident, and in fact, its arrival is foretold by the customer's bib. The final art follows the submission sketch very closely, which is always satisfying for me as a gag writer.
I've utilized the old the fly-in-the-soup setup a few times in the past, as shown in these examples.
It was fun to find yet another new twist by adding a lobster bib to indicate what the character is about to eat. Though I've worn a few lobster bibs in my time, I do recognize that they're inherently a little silly.

Here's one more item playing with the idea of wearing a bib to advertise the content of a meal:
Check in on the 15th and 18th of December for more waggery, including yet another fly/soup variation. In the meantime, please enjoy our previous comical conspiracies.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Odd Man Out

Today's Bizarro comic features the unfortunate victim of electronic crime.
The final, published cartoon turned out to be quite a change from the submission sketch, although the character looks very similar.
Dan Piraro, Bizarro's head honcho, liked the concept of an identity being almost a physical object that could be returned as well as taken, but thought the gag needed some more work. He suggested that we show the same awkward character talking to someone (perhaps at a party) and have him say, "I had my identity stolen last month but, unfortunately, they returned it almost immediately."

That change sounded good to me, as interacting with another person would add to the guy's discomfort and reinforce the joke.

I drew this a couple of months ago, and looking at it now, it seems there's an tinge of sadness (maybe even unfairness) to this gag. I remember the idea coming up as a joke made in conversation. Some friends and I were speaking about someone with a cranky personality and no clue about keeping his personal information secure. We reasoned that if his identity had been stolen, the thieves would probably return it right away.

If the comic had included a continuing character with a well-established odious personality, the gag could have been built on the reader's knowledge of the character's history. Being a standalone gag, we had to show him as generally weird-looking. I'm wondering if I might eventually have found some other way to get the idea to work, without making the character the butt of the joke just because of his looks.

Comments are welcome. Is this gag simply funny, or is it also a little cruel?

Of course, there's no excuse for any adult to wear that shirt.

December will be a banner month for my collaborations with Dan. We've got at least four more lined up before the year ends. The next one will be up on Monday, and explores a favorite setup for gag cartoonists.

All of our previous joint efforts are viewable in this blog's Bizarro archive.

Monday, December 02, 2013

A Long, Strange Strip

Though never a fan of the Grateful Dead, I always enjoyed interpreting song lyrics in comic form, so I happily accepted an invitation to contribute to Kitchen Sink's Grateful Dead Comix in 1991. 

I'd done comix adaptations of song lyrics in the past, many of which appeared in my friend Mary Fleener's minicomix series Chicken Slacks. I illustrated songs by Louis Jordan, Ben Vaughn, The Residents, Half Japanese, the Velvet Underground, and Beaver & the Trappers. 

To prepare for the Grateful Dead project, I picked up a book of GD lyrics to look for something that suggested a narrative, and finally settled on "Tennessee Jed," with words by Robert Hunter.

My original art was black & white, which the publisher photographed and converted to a two-layer "blue line" for coloring. Back then, the line art was shot onto a clear acetate overlay, and the artist applied color to a second layer of Bristol board, was printed with the art in pale blue. I added color to the foreground characters by painting on the reverse side of the acetate with animation cel paints, then used the Bristol board layer to create the textured backgrounds, applying a combination of ink, paint, colored pencil and collage, including several wallpaper samples. It drove the printers crazy, but it worked out all right.

I recently ran across scans of the eight-page story on a Tumblr feed called The Bristol Board. It was rather flattering to see this tagged a "forgotten masterpiece."

The comics were also collected in a book. The paperback version is readily available today. There was also a snazzy hardcover version, in an edition of 500 copies, which included a plate signed by Jerry Garcia. 

Each contributor received a copy of the hardback, which was a nice little bonus. I sold my copy long ago (for much more than my page rate!). I still have all of the original art, if some fanatical Deadhead is interested in buying it as a lot. For each page there's a tight sketch on tracing paper, the black & white inked art, and the two-layer colored finals. All serious offers will be considered!

Oh, and I still can't stand their music.