Saturday, July 13, 2019

Shaving Custard

It's been another productive week here at Bizarro Studios North. Let's review our latest published output.

Monday's cartoon is based on a real concern for people with parrots and other long-lived pets. A friend responded positively to this cartoon, noting that their avian companion is indeed covered by their will, but made no mention of a saltine clause in the document.

This panel was retweeted by The Ernest Becker Foundation. They're a nonprofit whose mission is to advance understanding of how the unconscious denial of mortality influences human behavior. I'd not heard of the foundation before noticing that they shared the cartoon, and have been looking around their site. Their work is fascinating, and among their projects is an examination of ways in which humans' fear of death can be used to manipulate behavior, particularly in political messaging. They also explore the role of humor in thinking about death, which is where we cartoonists come in.

If you steam those armored knights, they pop right open, making them favorites among fire-breathing dragons.

This one was prompted by a public service announcement about standing water as a likely breeding spot for mosquitoes, which is worth remembering in the wettest year on record here in the US.

The art was flipped horizontally for the strip layout. It required very little additional drawing: an extension of the desk and vase, and a few straight lines on the back wall.
Filling in the solid black area on the left side, however, almost made it look like an entirely new drawing.

I was pleased with the simplicity of this one, and the self-referential conundrum presented by the eightball's message. The caption is almost unnecessary, but it provides an extra beat to punctuate the gag.

It's become clear that we'll never run out of clown gags, and I'm always happy when I can tell a joke without words. 

I had some fun with the strip layout, adding a reflection of the barber's pole in a wall-mounted mirror...
...but only in the color strip.
Check the funny pages on Monday for yet another clown cartoon.

Mindful eating is often defined as chewing slowly, without distractions, being aware of each bite, and appreciating one's food. It could also mean doing these things in order to savor the annoyance of a parent. It's a matter of perspective.

In social media news, the July 5 cartoon got significant traction on Instagram, with over a quarter of a million views, and over 25,000 likes.
I guess I should do more bagpipe gags, although all of that internet activity resulted in a gross income bump of zero.

Don't forget to look in on Dan Piraro's blog to see what he has to say about this batch of laffs, and to gaze in wonder at his latest panoramic Sunday Bizarro page.

Bonus Track

Calling back to Friday's wordless cartoon, here's a favorite funk record without words, or at least without lyrics. There are a few shouts of encouragement in the mix. Nevertheless, it's a great record, with a perfect summertime vibe.

   H "Gatur Bait," by the Gaturs

The Gaturs were a New Orleans band led by keyboard player and occasional vocalist Willie Tee (born Wilson Turbinton). The Gaturs only released a handful of 45s, but every one is a killer. Had some fun with the ttps://

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Doone at the Crossroads

This post goes up on Saturday, July 6. With luck, Washington DC will have recovered from having to roll out heavy artillery for the amusement of a giant four-year-old.

Let's see what popped up on the comics page since our last update.

Compare and contrast: Body modification and dead body modification.

Gentlemen, let's be honest. We've all been that guy at one time or another.
Here's a cartoon trade secret: When converting a vertical panel comic to a horizontal strip, sometimes it helps to give the dialog to a different character.

Although I always put the strongest gag in the Friday slot, this one turned out to be my favorite of the week.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Paul Stanley, a member of Kiss, tweeted this gag to his 494,000 followers. He even took the time to photograph the strip from an actual newspaper. Mr. Stanley's "Starchild" makeup is parodied in the cartoon, although I'm told he wears the star on his right eye. Kudos to him for having a sense of humor and sharing the cartoon. 

Apologies to anyone who ended up with a Kiss earworm as a result of reading it.

This punishment manages to be both cruel and unusual.

Friday's cartoon plays fast and loose with the legend of Robert Johnson selling his soul at a crossroad in Mississippi and becoming the King of Blues Guitar. In our Bizarro reboot, this poor guy omitted a crucial detail.

Surprisingly, a web search for "Blues Piper" turned up this video of Gunhild Carling, a Swedish multi-instrumentalist. I don't care much for big band swing, but it's interesting to view as an experiment.

Too many people perform this sort of calculation when considering return on investment. My original dialog had the corporate kingpin basing his decision on whether the predicted horrific consequences would affect his grandchildren or later descendants, whom he probably would never meet anyway. That was a little too depressing, though not beyond belief.

On that uplifting note, I'll thank you once again for reading Bizarro, and for visiting the blog. As always, I encourage you to check in on Dan Piraro's weekly post for his thoughts on these cartoons, and a glorious new Sunday page.


Due to a cartoonist malfunction, the signature notation in Saturday's gag incorrectly indicates a total of three Bizarro secret symbols appearing in the panel, when in fact there are four, as highlighted below.

Several sharp-eyed readers pointed out the error, and we hope to get a corrected version up on the King Features website soon. In the interest of historical accuracy, and as a reminder to your cartoonist, we'll keep the erroneous panel here on the blog.

Bonus Track

Rufus Harley, Jr. (1936-2006), was an American musician who played bagpipes in a jazz context, and released his first album, Bagpipe Blues, in 1965.

This amazing video is a 1987 performance of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, with Harley backed by the Sun Ra Arkestra.

The bagpipes are well-suited to this composition, with a sound similar to Coltrane's soprano saxophone on the original recording. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Dig the New Breed

We kicked off this Bizarro week with a lesser-known Bible story.

If not for the intervention of corporate attorneys, Moses could have delivered instructions to the masses on a Post-it note, or at least the stone equivalent. Many readers offered suggestions as to the original text, and all were amusing and illuminating.

This breed is not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club, mainly because they're so easy to overlook.

Converting today's panel to the comic strip format was a little tricky. If I had reduced the art to show both of the humans in full, the punchline dog would have become too small to read in print.
I decided to work around the problem by cropping the people just above the waistline. That was enough of the image to make it clear that they dogs were being walked by their owners, and that the guy walking the tiny pup was speaking. 

Best of all, I was able to keep the tiny poop-bag in the frame.

Unlike the commandments referenced in Monday's gag, the rules regarding wine and food pairing aren't set in stone.

The teacher is now issuing a request to the kid's parents for the underlying evidence.

Almost everybody needs a side gig these days. This isn't the first time we've shown one of the Reaper's alternate income streams.

My favorite detail in this gag is the framed image of the tire swing on the wall.

That's the wrap-up from Bizarro Studios North for this week. If you simply can't get enough of this sort of shop talk, cruise on over to Dan Piraro's blog, where he offers additional commentary along with his always amazing Sunday Bizarro page.

Bonus Track

Last week, on June 21, Sir Raymond Douglas Davies, CBE, celebrated his 75th birthday. Here's a video from 1970 featuring Sir Raymond and his bandmates, collectively known as The Kinks, performing one of his many classic compositions.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Summertime Blues

The Summer Solstice occurred yesterday, so we're now getting fewer hours of sunlight with each passing day. All we can do is face every day with laughter. I hope this week's gags gave you a chuckle or two.

Fear of heights is a common phobia, and I figured at least some people must be afraid of widths. I wanted to use that expression in a gag, so this one was reverse engineered to include the phrase. I felt the dialog needed a little something more, and came up with the caption.

Children and pets can also serve as accessories, or even fitness equipment. By the time the kid's a teenager, Mom will have calves of steel.

This artist found a way to get those ideas that appear in dreams on canvas before they fade away.

He's getting a fifty percent discount on the fine. What's truly surprising is that when he's sober, he can't get that pocket square folded just right.

We love to tweak superheroes here at Bizarro Studios, and one of our favorite objects of ridicule is the Hulk. For today's gag, we imagine a citizen of a world populated by Hulk people, and the tragic results of a laboratory accident.

The panelists had a lively backstage discussion comparing tools and techniques.

Thank you for following our antics. Don't miss Dan Piraro's weekly blog post for his comments on this week's cartoons and a fresh Sunday page.

Bonus Track

"Sumer Is Icumen In" from the soundtrack to The Wicker Man.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Strawberry Surprise

Tomorrow is Fathers' Day. The staff and management at Bizarro Studios North send our best wishes to all of the dads reading this post. 

I expect that tomorrow, like every morning, my kids will leave gifts for me to find.

My gift to you is a recap of the week's cartoons.

Monday's panel answers the eternal question, "Where do you get your ideas?"

I put myself in this picture, along with a few admired colleagues. Since I'm the one most in need of help, they let me jump to the front of the line. Behind me are Hilary Price, Dave Blazek, Keith Knight, and Rina Piccolo. If you're not familiar with their cartoons, please go check them out. 

After you've viewed the work of these fine folks, I encourage you to keep exploring. There are tons of cartoonists out there creating terrific material. If I were to try to depict all of my compatriots whose work inspires me, it would require a comic strip a mile wide.

Tuesday's gag might require a quick Google search to remind readers of the fifth task of Hercules. Junior seems to think his household chore is equal to dad's massive cleanup effort.

On planets illuminated by a yellow sun, Kryptonians not only acquire super powers, but also super insecurities. With his ultra-sharp ears, Superman constantly hears local citizens questioning his identity.

It's only a matter of time until the American healthcare-industrial complex finds a way to monetize comfort animals, thus simultaneously relieving and creating anxiety in patients.

Although I don't watch sports, I fully recognize the power disparity between players and owners, and my sympathies lie with the workers on the front lines.

It's so realistically mundane!

Thanks for checking in. Don't forget to cruise over to Dan Piraro's blog for his take on the weeks drollery, and a fresh new Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone

Earlier this week I celebrated my birthday by doing what I like best: drawing cartoons for you.

Here's a look back at the ones that ran over the past six days:

Once again, something ridiculous we put in a cartoon turned out to be close to an actual thing. This typically American form of overcompensation has been known to result in incidents of trail rage.

There's no particular significance to the reversed Greek letter sigma on the character's shirt. I wanted to be sure I wasn't identifying any actual fraternity, so I flipped the letter.

This scene reminded me to continue to be grateful for my partner, and glad that I'm not out there in the dating world.

Wednesday's gag includes plenty of extra ink lines, at no additional cost to the reader.

This one was fun to draw. Normally, I like to keep the background simple, and remove elements that don't contribute to the gag, but in this case, the extra stuff was integral to the joke.

Readers are invited to submit suggestions for the name of the band whose "Harshest Hits" album is shown in the lower right side of today's panel. Post your suggestions as comments to this blog entry. I look forward to much creativity from the Jazz Pickle community.

Door-knocking for political candidates must be the worst of all volunteer jobs. The next time a campaign volunteer comes to your door, try offering them a glass of bubbly, if only to throw them off their game.

Not only is it a flying carpet, it's a taunting carpet.

Thanks for your readership and comments. Don't forget to browse Dan Piraro's blog for even more color and commentary.

Bonus Track

On May 30, 2019, music lovers lost the great Leon Redbone at the age of 69.

Mr. Redbone was a singular performer, and in 1990, he gave my good friend and bandmate Tom Roberts his big break. Back then, Tom was a high school music teacher. He handed Redbone a cassette tape and a business card after a concert here in Pittsburgh, which led to an audition, and then his first gig outside the city, playing with Leon on The Tonight Show.

That's young TR on piano, facing the back of the stage.

Tom toured with and arranged for Redbone for about six years, and has never forgotten the man who recognized his talent and changed the course of his life.

The day after Redbone left his earthly body, our band had a gig at a favorite local pub. We toasted the great man's life and work with a glass of
J├Ągermeister (Leon's beverage of choice), and performed a version of Jelly Roll Morton's "Te Na Na," a song that was part of his repertoire for many years.
The Red Beans & Rice Combo, with Bier's Pub owner Jake Bier
If you aren't familiar with Leon Redbone's music, do yourself a favor and sample some. 

Sample J├Ągermeister at your own risk.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Five O'Clock Shadow

Welcome back, Jazz Pickles. We've fully recovered from our cross-country travel, and are working diligently here at Bizarro Studios North to provide your recommended daily allowance of absurdity. Here's the week we just delivered.

Dogs and cats provide an endless well of humor for us here at BSN. It'd be interesting to see a statistical accounting of dog and cat gags since we started on the dailies. We could do it ourselves, but we're busy batting around the cap from a milk carton.

Certain modern a-go-go corporations would love to keep their employees "on campus" around the clock, so this particular cartoon is almost backwards. The boss could easily be making the case to the worker.

We feel a sense of accomplishment when we come up with a gag that requires no text, until we remember a case where a colleague did a wordless panel so brilliant it made us proud and envious at the same time.
As I mention here regularly, after completing each Bizarro panel, we convert the art to a horizontal layout for the client papers that run it in a regular comic strip slot. Sometimes this means we have to draw extra elements to fill in the scene, as with the trash can and passerby in today's cartoon.

Major League Baseball finally catches up with Little League.

In the unlikely event that I'm asked to deliver a commencement address, I'll incorporate this bit of wisdom.

With this panel, I found that it's surprisingly tricky to draw ghosts in a corporeal setting.

Don't forget to read Dan Piraro's weekly blog to see what he thinks of this week's output. Compare our comments for big fun.

Bonus Track

"Growin' a Beard"

Ben Vaughn is a versatile musician, songwriter, musical historian, and producer. He also hosts one of my favorite podcasts, The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn. Episodes of The Many Moods have helped me get through long nights of inking cartoons. Your musical knowledge will be enhanced if you listen. 

Tell him Wayno sent you.