Saturday, June 02, 2018

Chicken Wars

The staff here at Bizarro Studios North is still energized after seeing dozens of colleagues at the National Cartoonists Society's annual Reuben Awards weekend in Philadelphia over Memorial Day. We had a few drinks, caught up with friends, and toasted cartoonists who left us over the past year.

Among the many highlights were seeing special awards given to the legendary Arnold Roth and former King Features comics editor Brendan Burford. The award for graphic novel went to Emil Ferris's extraordinary book, My Favorite Thing is Monsters.
Hanging with Arnold & Caroline Roth, and MAD's Sergio Aragonés
With Zippy creator, Bill Griffith
I wish I had taken more photos during the weekend, but I needed both hands for beverages. We do, however, have pictures to share from this week's comics pages.

Have you ever heard a waiter say you'd made a terrible choice? Maybe not, but I do believe this comment was one hundred percent sincere. I'd forgotten that the ant farm toy was invented by a fellow Pittsburgher, Milton Levine a/k/a Uncle Milton.
Uncle Milton Levine

When Tuesday's cartoon appeared, a Bizarro reader commented, "I hope She-Hulk is running!" I couldn't disagree with that, though if we could truly have comics characters run for office, I'd give my vote to Lynda Barry's unstoppable Marlys Mullen.
Vote for Marlys!

Wednesday's gag is for artists of all types who constantly see their work altered, mangled, and generally misused all over the Web. We at Bizarro are fortunate to have enlightened, respectful readers, but, unfortunately, every artist occasionally encounters someone like the buffoon depicted above, though these types seldom exhibit this level of self-awareness.

One of the great pleasures of a favorite coffee shop is conversing with the other patrons and the hardworking people who craft that life-giving elixir we call espresso. I'm lucky enough to be a regular at a few cafes around Pittsburgh, all of which offer camaraderie and atmosphere that enhances my caffeine intake. I'm not sure if any of my locals ever received a text order from someone inside the shop, but it certainly wouldn't come as a surprise. 

Gag cartoons often rely on surprise to get a laugh, and sometimes that involves misdirection, or providing an unexpected explanation for some incongruity in the image. This one depends on the reader not noticing something in the image at first glance, and having to look at it a second time after reading the caption.

As an inveterate second-guesser and self-critic, I now wish I'd made the grass and shrubbery in the background much darker, or given the zombies paler flesh. Writing this blog post, it looks to me like there's way too much green in the panel. That tendency to dislike aspects of one's own work seems to be common among many artists I admire, so I at least feel that I'm in good company.

Saturday's gag had to be reviewed by the syndicate's legal team before we could run it. I didn't realize that the Popeye's fast food chain had ended their association with the famous cartoon character many years ago, so there was some question about using him in this context.

Our attorneys ultimately decided that the gag qualifies as "defendable parody," but we had a backup plan. If we had to drop the gag in its original form, we were going to swap in a Burger King bag showing their weird mascot, and edit the dialog to read, "I believe, sir, that with our combined military expertise, we could overthrow the king." 

Anything to avoid drawing a totally new cartoon.

While this joke was under review, I did some research on the name of the restaurant franchise, and read that the owner claimed he'd named the business after Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle, Gene Hackman's character in the 1972 film, The French Connection. Hackman's character was a fictionalized version of real-life New York detective Eddie "Popeye" Egan, who was given the nickname by colleagues when he flexed his muscles after chasing down a suspect. The food chain owners can deny it if they want to, but it still comes back to a spinach-eating sailor.

Be sure to check out Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog for his take on the latest batch of cartoons, and to see what he's created for the Sunday page.


Andrea Denninger said...

I once called a restaurant from INSIDE the restaurant to get the waitress' attention . . . it sure worked!

Craig L. said...

In the 'favorite cartoonist' panel, who was the cartoonist supposed to look like? I've seen Piraro's doppelganger (with goatee) in the cartoon plenty of times, and the pictures at the top of this blogpost show that it's not you (unless you've fantasized that you're a red-head).

And for the 'Chicken Military' cartoon, I think the Burger King gag would've been better (especially for anyone who has eaten BK's dubious 'chicken' sandwiches).

Wayno said...

The cartoonist is nobody in particular, and is a stand-in for all cartoonists.

Yes, I kind of like that Burger King line myself!

Gordy Johnson said...

Hi Wayno,
I just have to comment on the great job with the secret symbols. When you first started, they were a little awkward, or a little too obvious, But, wow, you're become really skillful at hiding them in plain sight. My hat's off for the extra work that must take for you when creating the panel.

Anyway, I love your work, great stuff.

Wayno said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Gordy! Placing the Bizarro secret symbols in the panel is a craft I'm still learning, and there's only one person who ever did it before, so there's quite a learning curve.

My main objectives with Bizarro are fine-tuning the writing and the drawing. The gag is the most important part of the panel, and I view the secret symbols as a little lagniappe for the readers who enjoy that aspect. I must admit, when I find a good spot for one of them, I enjoy it too.

Your readership, and particularly your attention to all details, is much appreciated.