Saturday, May 18, 2019

G.I. Bill

It's a big day in the comics world. This evening, the National Cartoonists Society will announce the winners of the group's 73rd annual Reuben Awards, sometimes referred to as the Oscars of Cartooning. Bizarro isn't in the running this year, but I'll be rooting for fellow Pittsburgh cartoonists Vince Dorse, Dave Klug, and Rob Rogers. My hometown will also be represented by writer, cartoonist, and standup comic Teresa Roberts Logan, who will emcee the Reubens banquet.

If you're gambling on the various categories, here are some tips from our friend Tom Heintjes at Hogan's Alley Magazine.

Now, here's a look at the week's Bizarro gags. Let us know if you think any are worthy to submit as entries for next year's Reuben Awards.

The patient's tallow readings are a little on the high side, but their sodium levels are right in the "savory" range. Dr. Russet is recommending an internal exam, and is referring the patient to Dr. Fingerling.

If Lassie could only operate a can opener, she'd have ditched her accident-prone family long ago.

Wednesday's cartoon seemed funny when I wrote it, but now every time I look at it only feels discouraging.

While writing this post, I noticed that the center character bears a passing (if unintentional) resemblance to Philip Proctor, one of my humor heroes, so I don't mind looking at as much I would otherwise.

What's truly baffling about alien abductions is the fact that the human captives are always returned to Earth in trucker caps, bib overalls, and flannel shirts, no matter what they wore before being picked up.

Recently, my partner-in-comics, Dan Piraro, was watching one of those food programs about fancy-schmancy restaurants, and he saw a feature on a "single-udder butters." As Dan related to me:
It is literally a plank of wood with three dollops of butter a few inches apart. Each dollop is made from the milk of a single cow. You’re supposed to compare the subtle differences in the butter from each cow. And they don’t even give you a cracker to put it on. Just the butter.
We both loved the sound and rhythm of the phrase "single-udder butters." Turning it into a gag was so easy, I would've felt guilty simply presenting it as described. In order to feel as if I put forth some effort, I changed the dish from the equivalent of an oenophile's horizontal tasting (the same vintage or style from different producers) to a vertical tasting (different vintages from the same producer). 

My first draft used the term "vertical tasting," but we decided that was too obscure, even for Bizarro's curious and well-read audience.

In the spirit of full culinary disclosure, I must admit that I'd unhesitatingly order this dish.

Bizarro doesn't feature any regular characters in the traditional (licensable) sense, which is why Dan and I aren't making millions in royalties from plush toys or CGI movies featuring celebrity voices and Randy Newman songs.

I do, however, find myself returning to a rotating cast of characters, and character types, as direct objects of parody, or as proxies for commenting on human psychology. This week's batch includes two favorites: Frankenstein's monster and Mister Potato Head. 

Other frequent performers on the Bizarro stage include:
  • Cowboys
  • Clowns
  • The Grim Reaper
  • Psychiatrists and other medical professionals
  • Bigfoot
  • Dogs, cats, and other pets
  • Insects
  • Satan and other religious figures
  • Santa Claus
  • Zombies
  • Criminals, cops, judges, and lawyers
  • Characters from fairy tales, literature, and mythology
  • Historical figures
Oh, and we really enjoy making fun of bro-dudes and superheroes.

As always, I recommend visiting Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog, where he offers additional insightful and amusing commentary on the gags of the week, and puts me to shame with another gorgeous Sunday page.

Bonus Track

Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen formed in 1967. In in a stroke of fortunate timing, the group (now called the Commander Cody Band) released the single and video "Two Triple Cheese" just as MTV was launching in 1981. In its earliest days, the network was wide open for any musical material to fill up airtime, and put the video into regular rotation. The low-budget production hasn't lost its appeal over the years.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Hard Reboot

Last Saturday, I joked about staying offline to avoid encountering the phrase "May the fourth be with you." 

I nearly succeeded, but the New York Times crossword puzzle bushwhacked me.
We'll try again next year. 

Now, let's review the week's cartoon offerings.
He was happy to hear that the noodles are made of ancient grains.
Old Leather Apron was inspired after reading The Life-Threatening Magic of Tidying Up. I have to wonder whether this cartoon will make sense to anyone reading it five years from now.
The TV network logo parodied in this panel was replaced in 2005, but the old design fit into our layout better than the current one.
Wise military strategists know that nobody can resist a piƱata.
Overwhelming forensic evidence sometimes requires a daring defense. 

Frankenstein's monster is one of our favorite recurring characters, and he'll undoubtedly turn up in future gags.
This treatment method is not recommended for human patients.

For even more smartypants commentary, point your browsing device to Dan Piraro's blog, where he also shows off a beautiful Sunday page that was almost not publishable.

Bonus Track

"Jack the Ripper" by Screaming Lord Sutch

David Edward Sutch (1940-1999) was a classic English eccentric, who ran for Parliament 40 times, most of them as leader of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

Saturday, May 04, 2019


Today's update was written well in advance and posted automatically, so I can avoid the Internet today. I'm trying to get through the day without encountering the phrase "May the fourth be with you." 

To atone for exposing you to that overused pun, here are six cartoons and some lovely music played by a lovely man.

They're skeptical of spectacles, and are known in the neighborhood as myopia deniers, though they say they're simply "lens hesitant." The family's scientific heroes are Jenny McCarthy and Rob Schneider.

This story has a happy ending: The mad king appointed the princess and the fool as his senior advisors.

A jury of one's peers is okay, but a judge with one's genes is even better. Just ask [fill in any name from recent political sentencing news].

Great Grandpa can sleep soundly now, thanks to the reassuring bedtime story. That, and a triple bourbon.

Sometimes sugarcoating the message helps after all.

I consulted reference photos for the guitar geeks in our readership, but I undoubtedly got some details wrong. I'll claim it was just a strategy to prompt comments correcting me.

The caption features a form of wordplay that I call a streptonym. The name hasn't caught on yet, but I'm sticking with it. Are you listening, OED?

Check out my partner Dan Piraro's blog, where he comments on this week's cartoons, and shares some wonderful personal news.

Bonus Track

Mentioning guitars gave me a convenient excuse to share this video of Pittsburgh native Joe Negri playing the jazz standard "Body and Soul."

Joe is recognized around the world for portraying "Handyman Negri" on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood for almost 40 years. He's known around Pittsburgh as a beloved teacher and a fine, friendly gentleman, who in real life is even nicer than his fictional character. He recently retired from his teaching position in the Music department at the University of Pittsburgh at age 92, and he'll be missed around the campus.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Creepy Crawly

Last week, I found my name on the Wikipedia page for underground cartoonist Willy Murphy (1936-1976). 
Murphy certainly influenced much of my early-1990s work, and still I enjoy and admire his comix. Also, it was nice to be mentioned alongside Paul Mavrides and Gilbert Shelton.

Willy Murphy combined a wacky drawing style with hilarious and smart writing. He was a sharp observer and critic (as well as a member) of the 70's counterculture. His best material was collected in the two issues of Flamed-Out Funnies. They're available online at reasonable prices, and are well worth reading. 

I'm not sure that Murphy's influence is evident in this week's Bizarro gags, but here they are anyway.

Are nursery rhymes designed to brainwash children to be happy conformists? This disgruntled dad thinks so. Maybe he's right, but maybe he just shouldn't read to his kid on Mondays.

Fun fact #1: We never pass up a chance to use a word like "blowholes."

Fun fact #2: If this were a group of crows, it would be called a murdercast.

The Bluebird of Happiness may be more popular, but the Grackle of Melancholia is the more common feathered emoji.

By lucky coincidence, I wrote this gag for the week that includes Take Your Child To Work Day, a subject I've poked fun at in the past. 

Like many fellow cartoonists, my feline offspring accompany me to work every day.

Eventually, he'll realize that the Tail Fairy is just a fairy tale.

The poor guy's still got so much more to take.

Don't forget to read Dan Piraro's blog for his take on this week's gags and to admire his latest Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

"Boris the Spider," written by the Who's bass player, John Entwistle

Pete Townshend noted that this was Jimi Hendrix's favorite Who song.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Green Eggs and Hammers

Before you go off to hide hard-boiled eggs in the yard, why not take a look back at the week in Bizarro cartoons?
Monday's gag depicts dual meanings of the word "monitor." This happened shortly after the company announced the introduction of "enhanced supervision techniques."

Readers are welcome to imagine which actors would do the voices for this nonexistent animated feature.

Further evidence that climate change is real.

The norm for haiku in English is a sequence of three non-rhyming lines consisting of five, seven, and five syllables, although that requirement has been relaxed in recent times. I felt that the familiar 5-7-5 form was necessary for this gag to work, and, I prefer haiku conforming to those constraints.

Speaking of poetry, if you enjoy well-done limericks, check out Five Lines, No Waiting, by piano virtuoso Tom McDermott. His new CD of Scott Joplin compositions is also recommended. Both items are available from Louisiana Music Factory.

For Good Friday, we offered a Biblical forecast.

Fortunately COBRA insurance covers the hoodie of shame.

For further smartypants commentary and a groovy Easter Sunday Bizarro page, check out Dan's Piraro's blog.

Bonus Track

Note: Some YouTube videos are not available outside the US.

The verses of "Moonlight in Vermont" follow the 5-7-5 haiku format. The song was written by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf, and was published in 1944. It was first recorded by Margaret Whiting. This Billie Holiday version is from 1957.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

All My Dough

It's the last weekend before Tax Day here in the US. That's the deadline for twenty-six percent of our country's eligible voters to see yet another example of the damage caused by their horrible choice, although they'll probably fail (or refuse) to recognize it.

This scene might represent a form of progress, or it could be a case of substituting one obsessive behavior for another. At least digital music and books are less physically exhausting to rearrange.

This investigator knows it's better to wait until a case is cold before opening it. Especially when it's a hoppy brew.

Artie had been refusing dessert until they found him a proper pudding grail.

Did we have several conversations with our editors to discuss the punctuation in that second sentence? Yes, we did.

I've never sneezed while unlocking my phone, but I occasionally distort my face and see if it recognizes me. I've only fooled it once.

Extreme dehydration has been known to result in rude behavior. At least he didn't ask for sparkling water.

If you enjoy this commentary, I recommend reading Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog, where he also discusses the week's comics, and shows off his cartooning prowess with his latest Sunday panel.

Bonus Track

A video from 1966 that's blurry, slightly out of sync, and sublime.

   Note: Some YouTube videos are not available outside the US.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Decade O' Drollery

Early this week, I received my contributor's copy of The Book of Weirdo, a massive, thoroughly-researched history of the legendary 1980s comix anthology founded by Robert Crumb. Early in my cartooning career, I managed to get a page published in Weirdo, and I'm jazzed to be included in this beautiful book.
A Satisfied Customer
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Weirdo
This week also marks a Bizarro milestone for your humble cartoonist, which we'll get to shortly, but first, let's look at our latest offerings.

Monday's gag comments on a topic we're calling "ivory insularity." It also includes an intentionally-wrong April Fools' Day secret symbol count. Of course, there are actually eighty-seven symbols in this one.

We generally prefer drawing inanimate objects in a realistic manner, without human faces, clothing, or limbs, unless these additions are necessary to clearly deliver the gag.
Adapting the art to the strip layout wasn't difficult, but it made for a more dramatic presentation.

I wasn't surprised to learn that an app like this exists. I can attest that the alarm function would be effective.

Surprisingly (or maybe not), Wednesday's cartoon is based on an actual tattoo.

Bizarroversary Flashback Gag
Although I've only been writing and drawing the daily Bizarro comics since January 1, 2018, my collaborations with Dan Piraro go back ten years. Wednesday marked the tenth anniversary of the very first time my name appeared in Bizarro. Above is the gag that led us to today. I'm forever grateful to Dan for leaving the side door unlocked so an intruder like me could sneak in.

We now return to the current series, already in progress.
There's probably be an evolutionary reason for mice preferring rounded doorways, but I've yet to encounter a satisfactory explanation. 

My favorite part of this drawing is the "Hole Depot" apron.

The ol' spud looks pretty chipper, considering the subject at hand.
Maybe he's relaxed because he's already selected his urn.
The naughtiness of this cartoon is directly proportional to the lasciviousness of the reader's imagination. 
Working out the gag in my sketchbook required an bit of diagramming.

Dan Piraro's comments on these cartoons, along with his latest Sunday gag, can be viewed on his own blog.

In related news, King Features Syndicate is in the process of updating the Comics Kingdom site, where you can read Bizarro every day for free.

Bonus Track #1

"Fine Artiste Blues" by R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders

Robert Crumb, founding editor of Weirdo, is also an accomplished musician and longtime record collector.

Bonus Track #2

"Potato Chips" by Slim Gaillard

By the way, if you're looking for the perfect gift to commemorate my tenth Bizarroversary, I'd love to get a copy of Slim Gaillard's Vout-O-Reenee Dictionary.