Saturday, July 21, 2018

No Commercial Potential

Portions of this dispatch from Bizarro Studios North are longer than usual, which is fitting since the first gag of the week sports a lengthy caption.

We kicked things off with a literary reference, updating Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis for the 21st century.

I was introduced to Kafka by the writings of another twisted genius, Frank Zappa. We're Only In It for the Money, the 1968 album by Zappa's band The Mothers of Invention, was the second LP I bought with my own money. (The first was the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, whose cover is brutally parodied by Money.)

The lyrics and credits panel inside Money's gatefold sleeve included instructions for listening to the album's final track, a harsh piece of musique concrete entitled "The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny." The first instruction was to read Kafka's dystopian short story In The Penal Colony. The story is grotesque and disturbing. In other words, perfect for a disaffected young smart aleck. 

That "assignment" from my new musical hero led me to check out some of Kafka's other works, including his best-known piece, The Metamorphosis. The first line of the story in the translation I read is:
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
That sentence remained lodged in my cranial filing cabinet for all these years, and finally slipped out in the form of a cartoon.

Tuesday's aquatic gag resulted from an honest typo by Bizarro CEO Dan Piraro. He mentioned it to me, and suggested I ponder the phrase to see if it suggested an image that would work as a cartoon. 

About a month later, I made this rough sketch, which prompted Dan to suggest adding a "school" field trip entering the museum. That was the perfect little detail it needed.
Converting the panel to a horizontal strip layout required some planning, as seen in this sketchbook spread, but it all worked out satisfactorily.
That missing letter "e" still bothers me, but perhaps it'll turn up at some point, like an unmatched sock.

If not for email archives, I'd never have remembered how we arrived at this gag. Dan and I frequently bounce ideas back and forth, sometimes for weeks or even months. Our comedic sensibilities are so similar, we're not always sure who planted the kernel for a particular cartoon. Some people have even suggested that we're beginning to look alike.
Many corporations are downsizing, and Calendar Talent Enterprises is no exception. Rumors abound that Saint Patrick will be doubling as the outgoing Old Year.

This cartoon garnered an ego-boosting tweet from Tony Norman, a columnist and the Book Review Editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Tony is a thoughtful (and thought-provoking) writer, as well as a knowledgeable comics reader, who has moderated many panel discussions with comics creators, although the comment above will undoubtedly damage his reputation.

We resisted the urge to show the Dean with a dummy, emphasizing the fact that he's always practicing his craft.

This gag might be lost on some readers, since hiding from photographers while being arrested is a thing of the past in our current post-shame culture.

I'm really not as pessimistic as this cartoon might imply. Not every day, anyway.

For further insight into our creative collaborations, please visit Dan Piraro's Bizarro blog, where you can also order groovy swag from the Bizarro Shop, and admire Dan's latest magnificent Sunday page.

This Week's Bonus Track

"The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny" might be too much for the average reader/listener, so here's a more accessible cut, which I hope will serve as a gateway drug.

Artistic Addendum

Speaking of heroes, I was initially drawn to the Money LP by this ad, which ran in a few Marvel comic books.
It was designed by Cal Schenkel, who was Zappa's main visual collaborator for many years. Cal was responsible for creating dozens of amazing album covers as illustrator, designer, and photographer. He currently sells art through his website, Galerie Ralf. His prices are reasonable, and I recommend checking out the Galerie and ordering a giclée print or hand-painted original.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to help plan and stage an exhibit of Cal's work, which was a terrific honor. He was truly kind and gracious, and signed a couple hundred LPs for fans that evening.

Standing beside a master

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Pity the Fool

Greetings once again from Bizarro Studios North, in Hollywood Gardens, USA. If you're reading this, congratulations on surviving another Friday the 13th. 

Now, let's see what sort of nonsense we put on the funny pages this past week.

We started the week with a typical domestic scene involving the monstrous couple next door, and a fine example of passive-aggressive behavior.
This earlier version, sketched about a year ago, was nothing more than a riff on the monster's flat head. It wasn't much of a gag, and ran counter to his well-known fear of fire. Showing these characters having a mundane disagreement, as all couples sometimes do, had more appeal, so we set it aside to revisit later. I did a second version (now lost) with the Bride saying, "I’m glad you’re making progress in your ‘fear of fire’ workshop, but I’m trying to sleep." That was a little better, but after further consideration, we finally developed the version that ran this week.

This approach might possibly reduce the sting of an unpleasant verdict. If the defendant still hasn't cheered up, the judge could always inhale some helium before delivering the sentence.

Wednesday's comic is not based specifically on any individual cabinet member who recently resigned in disgrace because of multiple scandals, and whose policies are just as odious as his unethical, self-serving behavior. It could apply to any number of public figures.

Last week, Bizarro referenced Oscar Wilde, and now we tweak Robert Louis Stevenson. This isn't my first Dr. Jekyll gag. The author[[ appeared in this 2017 WaynoVision comic:
I met the actual Mister T at the 1993 San Diego Comic-Con, where he was promoting his comic book, Mr. T and the T-Force. He was smaller than I expected, and he really did keep his brow furrowed non-stop.
L-R: Roy Tompkins, Laurence Tureaud, Wayno
It's taken 25 years, but I finally drew him in a cartoon.

This silly gag was inspired by the familiar image of an impending shootout viewed from a weird perspective.
Tiny Charles Bronson, Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Dan and I both enjoy cowboy scenes, though he's much better at drawing horses. I grew up during the heyday of TV westerns, and before getting into the cartooning game, briefly considered a career as a cowpoke.
Unfortunately, I was not a very intimidating gunslinger, so I abandoned that dream.

Old technology meets new in Saturday's cartoon. It's entirely possible that hipster teapots may start wearing antique cozies any day now.

For further analysis of the week's cartoons, visit Dan Piraro's blog, and don't forget to check out his latest Sunday page.

Musical Endurance Test of the Week

My hat's off to anybody who can make it through this 1984 rap by Mr. T.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

We Have Tar

It's the Saturday after the Fourth of July, and I still have all of my digits, so I'm happy to type up another post revisiting the week's Bizarro comics.

I'm not crazy enough to explain this one. However, plenty of people had comments to offer after Dan Piraro shared it on Instagram.

I enjoy looking at creative works made by untrained artists, so this joke is in part self-directed. The business of dealers selling this type of art involves a multitude of contradictions and ethical dilemmas. The concept of "authenticity" is almost beside the point. Our savvy roadside vendor has recognized a suggestible and exploitable demographic.
The strip version of today's cartoon left a little too much dead space, so the signs were rearranged, and I added a new one.

By the way, Baltimore's American Visionary Museum is a fascinating place to see all sorts of outsider art, and I recommend checking it out.

Wednesday's comic updates Oscar Wilde's novel for the Internet age, although it's much more more common for people to post unrealistically flattering profile pictures. If Dorian does manage to hook up, his date should be pleasantly surprised to meet him.

When I first saw the 1933 Invisible Man movie on TV, I actually thought the character was supposed to be the mummy in glasses and clothing, so this cartoon almost wrote itself. 

Hmm, I just noticed that two cartoons in a row started with the word "dude." I'll try to give that a rest for a while.

We generally prefer situational gags over those based on puns. You'll see no "cereal killers" or "hare salons" here. However, when we come up with a surprising pun, we like the challenge of building a cartoon around it. We were pleased with this one, which can be enjoyed as simple wordplay, or read as layered commentary.

Saturday's gag is pretty much straight self-reportage, and although the caption is specific to cartoonists, the situation is familiar to people in any number of professions. Insomnia is no fun, but a brain that's hard to turn off is preferable to one that never starts up.

For even more cartoonsplaining, check out Dan Piraro's blog, and marvel at his latest Sunday Bizarro page.

This Week's Bonus Track

James Jeffrey Plewman (1948 - 2014) was a fascinating musician known by the stage name Nash the Slash. His familiar costume for performing seems to have been inspired, at least in part, by the Invisible Man.