Monday, December 09, 2019

War and Pekoe

I must first apologize for the tardy blog post. I normally publish on Saturdays, but last weekend was unusually busy here at Bizarro Studios North. I've been working overtime in an attempt creep a little further ahead of deadline, so I can relax with family and friends over the holidays. 

I spent most of Saturday getting ready for the annual holiday gig by my musical group, The Red Beans & Rice Combo.
 
L-R: Dave Klug, Wayno, special guest Rick Sebak, Tom Roberts
The show was a lot of fun, despite
a brief intermission to repair the bass drum pedal. Dave, our percussionist, improvised a fix using a metal clip from an equipment case and after reassembling the pedal, he sounded even better than before.
 

Now, let's review last week's cartoon  activities.


A surprising number of people (including my comic partner Dan Piraro) told me that they've long referred to the familiar retailer by this name. It's an appropriate moniker, given the fact that its retired billionaire co-founder supports our own domestic dictator's bid for another term of constitution-burning.

Instead of addressing his intentionally poor performance, this kid is attacking the teacher's credentials. Where could he have learned such a tactic?


Wednesday's gag illustrates the expression "unclear on the concept."


Corporate decision-making is all about weighing alternatives and evaluating trade-offs.


I share my cartoons on a few social media platforms, and reactions to this one indicated that Facebook users were more likely to understand the literary reference and the connection to reading tea leaves than Instagram readers. I'm not sure what to make of this data point, it's simply an observation.


Saturday saw a return to simple, jokey wordplay, riffing on two meanings of the word "idle." My car has a gas-saving feature which turns off the engine when the vehicle is stopped. Maybe that's why I never get invited to bank robberies.

Readers whose newspapers publish the strip version of Bizarro saw only three secret symbols, instead of the four visible in the panel configuration. Only those with X-ray vision found the K2 symbol hidden behind the caption box.

Be sure to check out Dan Piraro's blog. His latest Sunday page is brilliant and timely, and it prompted an unusual amount of heated commentary.

Thanks for continuing to follow Bizarro, online and in your local newspaper, assuming it's still in business. See you on Saturday with more of this sort of thing.

Bonus Track

"Fortune Teller"
Performed by the composer, Allen Toussaint




This is a favorite song here at BSN, first recorded by New Orleans R&B singer Benny Spellman in 1962.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

A Schmear of Gratitude

As our country awakens from its annual L-tryptophan coma, we present our most recent batch of cartoon shenanigans, hoping we didn't produce any turkeys.
We're considering doing a version of this drawing with the toppings removed, so Bizarro readers can decorate the bagel with whatever "anything" they desire.


I know, another clown gag. I can't stop myself.


This gag prompted a lot of comments on Nana's recipe, and it seems that dispensing guilt is common in just about every family, regardless of heritage or faith. Apparently, it's one of those things we all share.


In his excellent Comic Strip of the Day blog, Mike Peterson commented, "Ah, trust Bizarro to come up with something  for the occasion."

We just might start using "Whimsical and Slightly Demented" as the studio's corporate tagline.


The drinking bird toy is a version of what's known as a heat engine.

Three letters with layers of meaning and possible intentions.

Thanks for following along for another week. My comments are a little briefer than usual today, because we're headed to a Small Business Saturday open house at the coolest new business location in Pittsburgh, Double Dog Studios.

Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog, for additional comics commentary, and the admire his latest Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

The Bagel Song



I unabashedly love Homer & Jethro. These guys were top-notch musicians with serious chops, who made dozens of hilarious comedy records parodying popular songs of the day. They also recorded tons of weird and funny original tunes.


I may have initially noticed them because many of their LPs sported gorgeous cover art by the great cartoonist Jack Davis.

Bizarro Studios North has an extensive archive of Homer & Jethro records and artifacts, stored in our climate-controlled vault deep below an undisclosed location in central Pennsylvania.

In the late 20th century, Tower Records' Pulse! Magazine interviewed some cartoonists regarding their musical preferences, and included me in that piece. Naturally, I discussed H&J, and provided a caricature to accompany my responses. Here's a scan of my original art (a cel-vinyl painting).
By the way, Kenneth "Jethro" Burns had a son, Johnny, who turned out to be a fantastic musician just like his papa. Johnny has played with Steve Goodman, John Prine, among many others. He's also a sweet and generous gent, a devoted dog- and cat-daddy, and US Air Force veteran. Proving that something positive can come from social media, I'm proud to say Johnny is a friend of mine.

Despite the Thanksgiving holiday's more-than-problematic history, pausing to consider those things you're grateful for is still a fine idea. Having good friends near and far is at the top of my list.

Of course, I'm also thankful for every Bizarro reader, and I'll do my best to raise a glass to toast each of you before the holiday weekend comes to a close.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Weirdos of the World, Unite

Last Saturday, author/editor/designer/publisher/historian Jon B. Cooke paid a visit to Bizarro Studios North. While hanging out in the spacious front office, we recorded an interview for Jon's comics podcast, Subterranean Dispatch.
Jon B. Cooke with Wayno at
Bizarro Studios North, 11/16/19
Jon is the author of The Book of Weirdo, a fascinating and deeply-researched history of Robert Crumb’s influential comix anthology. It’s an impressive and scholarly work, which includes interviews with all three Weirdo editors (Crumb, Peter Bagge, and Aline Kominsky-Crumb) plus profiles, photos, and interviews with Weirdo contributors, and discussion of projects and publications related to or influenced by Weirdo. While gathering material for the book, Jon tracked down every living Weirdo contributor, even those (like myself) who only did a single page for the magazine.
Portrait of the Cartoonist as a Young Weirdo
I can’t recommend The Book of Weirdo highly enough. It's available wherever comics are sold, but the best source is Last Gasp Books, who've been publishing underground comix since 1970.

It was a treat to spend the morning with Mr. Cooke, a fine and gracious gent, who I know is now a friend for life.

What else went on last week? We sent another six cartoons out into the world, hoping to provide a few laughs during trying, confusing times.

A dear friend of mine recently experienced a couple of scary episodes of atrial fibrillation, and had to wear a recording heart monitor around the clock for several days, which made everyday activities (like showering) complicated and stressful. He's doing better now, as his health provider tries to figure out the right combination of medications and treatment. My friend approved of this cartoon, and promised to take good care of himself, as I hope you all do.
My drawings of the characters in this gag are based on actors Jack Haley and Frank Morgan, who played the Tin Man and the Wizard in the 1939 film.

Unfortunately, for many, the workplace is a competitive arena, and some employers like it that way. The supervisor in this cartoon is perhaps trying to foster employee solidarity and teamwork, though his technique is lacking.

Greeting card companies might want to consider creating a line of "Happy Realistic Expectations" Day cards.

While this prospective member isn't wrong, his behavior should serve as a reminder that it's not necessarily wise to offer corrections to friends in social settings.

We enjoy doing parodies of superheroes, and wondered what sort of person would assume a name like "Mister Fantastic?" That's just asking for ridicule.
Although this is the first time I've tweaked these characters in Bizarro, here's a 2012 sketchbook drawing of another member of the Fantastic Four.

When I use inanimate objects as protagonists, I usually try to draw them realistically, without arms, legs, or faces. Occasionally, I'll anthropomorphize an object, but I prefer to find a way around that if possible.


Don't forget to check out Dan Piraro's weekly blog, where you can view his newest Sunday Bizarro page, see what he has to say about my most recent gags, and find some great Bizarro swag to buy for yourself or as gifts.
D. Piraro modeling an official Flying Saucer of Possibility cap
Oh, and grab yourself a copy of The Book of Weirdo.

Bonus Track

Long before Weirdo, there were Weird-Ohs: plastic model kits featuring wild monster characters driving cartoon hot rods.



I gave up on the Weird-Ohs models after botched attempts at building and painting two or three of them. Fortunately, the Fleer Corporation marketed Weird-Ohs bubblegum cards, which I collected as a kid.

I still have a few of my old beat-up Weird-Ohs cards here in the studio.
From the Bizarro Studios North Archive


Saturday, November 16, 2019

Baby Talk

Happy Saturday, dear readers. This week at Bizarro Studios North, we endured the first snowfall of the season, and a shocking cold snap, while things started heating up in the nation's capital.

As a distraction from the non-stop news avalanche, we present our most recent batch of cartoons.
The text in the first balloon is a transcription of an actual (half-joking) conversation my spouse and I had.
The panel and the strip layout each contain five Bizarro Secret Symbols, but not the same five.

Tuesday's gag prompted this correction from a zoologically-savvy reader:
I am not sure what rain forest would have a Sloths (From Central/South America) and Ring-tailed Lemurs (from Madagascar) together, other than one in a Zoo.
I stand corrected, but assert that otherwise, the drawing is a hundred percent believable. We all know that sloths and lemurs enjoy cocktails, carry cell phones, and speak English.

Note that the child making this comment is holding an eyeball rattle.

As I wrote this post, I noticed that this week's batch includes multiple gags about kids. This one imagines an educational toy based on an everyday real-world experience.

Of course, his number one question is, "Why does Bruce have such a cool, bad-ass costume, while I'm wearing underpants?"

Apparently, comic book fans have also speculated and argued over this controversy.


Saturday's gag should be read in a Cockney accent, guv'nor. There's no deep meaning here, just some absurdist wordplay.

That wraps up another six days of cartoonery. Be sure to check Dan Piraro's blog for his thoughts on this kinder-centric batch of comics, and to admire his latest Sunday Bizarro page.

Bonus Track

"Robin the Boy Wonder" by Jan and Dean, 1966




Jan Berry and Dean Torrence were surf music pioneers, along with their contemporaries (and friends) the Beach Boys. Jan and Dean's records were often laced with self-aware humor, including such numbers as "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena," "Popsicle," and "Bucket T," which was covered by The Who, with Keith Moon on lead vocals.

Dean Torrence was also a savvy businessman, and had a parallel career as a graphic artist. He won a Grammy in 1972 for designing the cover of the debut LP by the long-forgotten band Pollution.



Torrence recently did a fascinating interview on the Bob Lefsetz podcast, which I highly recommend.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Ivan the Savory

Winter is approaching here at Bizarro Studios North, and we've switched the clocks back to standard time, so please excuse us if we start using brighter colors to try to offset the seasonal gloom and grayness.

Let's take a look at this week's gags, and see if that lifts our spirits.

We kicked off with a typical case of hatchling rivalry. Parenting is tough for every species.
We're constantly second-guessing ourselves here at the studio, and after this cartoon was printed, I wondered if the connection between the words feather and finger would have been conveyed more effectively if we'd used quotation marks as shown above. I think it does work a little better with the added punctuation, but it's already out there in its original form.

Tuesday's panel imagines how the Three Stooges might have gone over in the Elizabethan era.
Lead Stooge Moe Howard credited Pittsburgher Paul Shannon with helping to revive the trio's career in the early 1960s, when he featured Stooge shorts on his afternoon kids' TV show, Adventure Time. Your humble cartoonist's Cub Scout pack once attended an Adventure Time taping. Sadly, I have no photographic evidence of that field trip.

I realized after the fact that this panel's caption also recalls the title Anythynge You Want To: Shakespeare's Lost Comedie, a literate and hilarious recording by the Firesign Theatre.

Apparently Russia meddled with Wednesday's gag involving tinned autocrats. The text on the side of the can is a modified version of сардинкы, the Russian word for sardines. We tweaked it to accommodate the K2 Secret Symbol.

Wednesday was also the birthday of Adolphe Sax, creator of the saxophone. To honor this important date, here's an old WaynoVision panel featuring the sax.

Jake and Will, working on a folkloric masterpiece. 

I swear, this gag was not timed to coincide with any real-life events.

Our last gag of the week is a simple verbal switcheroo. Drawing the pie was easier than working out the math. I checked the totals at least a dozen times before uploading this file.

I often use reference photos to make my drawings less inaccurate, and usually print out collages to look at while I work on the art. These are the pages I made to help with this week's output. 

Yes, those are actual historical tsars in Wednesday's panel, although I've forgotten which ones.

Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog, to view his latest widescreen Bizarro Sunday page, and see what he has to say about this batch of cartoons.

Bonus Track

Please enjoy Louis Armstrong's 1954 version of the Russian folk song Очи чёрные, also known popularly as Dark Eyes.
 


Armstrong chose to ignore the original lyrics, which were written by Ukrainian poet Yevhen Hrebinka, but it's still a fine recording by America's greatest musician.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Into the Woods

A few days ago, I uploaded the Bizarro files for the week of Monday, December 30. That closes out my second full year as Bizarro's daily cartoonist, and kicks off Year Three.
Preview of the New Year's Day 2020 panel
I can scarcely believe it's already been two years since Dan Piraro left the basement door unlocked, allowing me to sneak in and start displaying my work in the gallery he built nearly 35 years ago.


Writing and drawing a daily comic is the best job I've ever had, as well as the most challenging. I appreciate every reader, especially those who also follow the blog, or take time to send a note when they see a gag they particularly like (or dislike).

I hope to keep doing it for many years to come, in batches of six, one after the other.

Speaking of which, let's look over the latest six-pack.

We started off with a suggestive scene in the bar at Whole Foods. One waggish reader on Facebook commented that they'd now refer to their favorite sandwich as a "B.L. Threesome," which I must admit is rather catchy.

Joe intentionally created this signage as bait for self-styled grammarians.

Some readers outside the United States weren't familiar with the sloppy joe sandwich, an American invention consisting of ground meat mixed with various sauces and seasonings, and served on a hamburger bun.

According to Wikipedia, it's a descendant of the loose meat sandwich, created in Sioux City, Iowa in the 1930s. For more info from a true
connoisseur of all types of "sangwidges," I refer you to my paisano Mark Zingarelli, and his comic gourmand, Eddie Longo.

It's not widely known that piñatas shaped like Saint Bernards leave behind airplane bottles of brandy.

Our favorite detail in the Halloween Day panel is the weapon in the evidence bag. 

Friday's wordless panel confirms the answer to an age-old question.
The strip version required some additional vegetation and shuffling of elements, but this layout flows pretty well.

We at Bizarro Studios assure our readers that no pumpkins were harmed in the making of these comics.

That wraps up the Halloween Week edition of Bizarro. Come visit us again any time.

Be sure to check out Dan Piraro's blog, which usually posts on Sunday or Monday, for more pithy commentary and other tasty treats.

Bonus Track

Our bonus track is Leon Russell's "Out in the Woods," from his 1972 LP Carney. In addition to its obvious arboreal theme, it has a perfectly spooky vibe for Halloween/Day of the Dead.



Although I've owned a copy of this record since my teens, I hadn't listened to it in many years, until I pulled it off the shelf in 2015 to make a "record head" photo (a time-consuming hobby I indulged in for a while). As I experimented with the staging and rejected multiple shots, I played the album, and it felt like a reunion with an old friend. In fact, I think I'll revisit it again today, as I start working on my next batch of cartoons.

"Carney" record head
Photographed at Bizarro Studios North 10/22/15