Saturday, August 29, 2020

Back to School, or Something Like It

As the summer draws to a close, our thoughts are with the teachers, students, school personnel, and parents navigating the start of a school year unlike any we've experienced before. Fortunately, many of the country's educational leaders are focused on ways to keep the sports industrial complex humming along.

From the quarantine bubble here at Bizarro Studios North, we're working to provide temporary relief from the daily outrages with humorous words and pictures. Here are the latest from our little comics factory.

The center battery in the back row sports a logo based on the cover of Zap Comix #7, drawn by Spain Rodriguez.
As a music-obsessed kid, I spent much of my free time (and all of my lunch money) in record stores. Many independent stores also had a display case or spinner rack of underground comix, and Zap was the first title I grabbed. Several times throughout my childhood, I had the experience of finding something that I absolutely knew my parents would not want me to have. 
The first time I was aware of that special thrill was when I discovered the earliest MAD comics in crappy paperback reprints issued by Ballantine Books. Will Elder's art in "Starchie" blew my preadolescent mind.

Later, the first issue of Robert Crumb's Zap gave me a high-voltage version of that rush that came with the recognition of something that would be forbidden if Mom and Dad were even aware of its existence. I wasn't a big drug-user in my youth, but I never stopped chasing the intoxicating art & music monkey.

Don't you hate getting dumped by one of your other personalities?

Wednesday's drawing and dialog were reverse-engineered to set up the weird caption. It's not a normal joke in any way, but we liked its surreal vibe, and ran with it.

This one, on the other hand, is perfectly logical.

I thought this was simply a droll take on the cliched image of a mime trapped in an invisible box, but it prompted a wonderful analysis from a clever Bizarro reader:
My spin on today's joke by Wayno (8-28): America's evangelicals pretend to be trapped in some box of government oppression. Since the box is invisible, "fire" man T***p can promise an invisible solution!
Thanks to Bill in Massachusetts, for giving me a good laugh and a fresh take on my own work. Bravo!

I generally try to keep my drawings simple and uncluttered, since they're often printed at a ridiculously small size, causing tinier details to disappear into solid blobs. For this one, I got carried away with extra bits of business secondary to the gag. MAD's Bill Elder referred to this sort of thing as "chicken fat."
The "Bunnies" book poster is a parody of the first edition dust jacket of John Kennedy Toole's classic comedic novel, A Confederacy of Dunces. That cover was illustrated by Ed Lindlof in 1979 or 1980.
The second framed cover advertises Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden's scholarly work, How to Read Nancy. The book earned an Eisner Award for Best Comics-Related Book, and is highly recommended. I'm still learning from it.
The strip version of Saturday's gag shows more of the Nancy cover, and also features a framed image of The World of Chas Addams. That's my kind of bookstore.

Come back next week for a fresh batch of funny pictures, and don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's weekly blog for his comments, plus a new Sunday Bizarro page.

Bonus Track
"Back to School Days" by Graham Parker & The Rumour




Saturday, August 22, 2020

Dust on the Needle & Extra Anchovies

It's Saturday again, Jazz Pickles, which means it's time for our usual commentary on the week's comics, this time with brief culinary and musical detours.

Let's jump right into a review of our latest Bizarro gags.


We started the week with some punning bathroom humor, quashing any accusations that the comic might be too highbrow.

A friendly reminder to lay off the bamboo tea at bedtime.

The heavier the lyrics, the more uplifting the performance.

Music is good for you, however you choose to listen to it. Contrary to several comments we received, I wasn't advocating or dismissing any format. Whatever delivery system you prefer, I'm all for it.
Years ago, before having a daily comics deadline, I spent an awful lot of time compiling and duplicating cassette compilations of oddball records, which I'd then swap by mail with a network of friends who were also in search of unusual music. One of them was (unsurprisingly) titled Surface Noise

Although I no longer have the technology to play cassette tapes, I still have a boxful stashed away in the studio. If I ever take a long-distance road trip in a car with a tape deck, I'll be ready.


Friday's gag references a classic and ubiquitous advertising image, which I imagined being based on an actual person.
Photo courtesy of Tom Heintjes
Comics historian Tom Heintjes reminded me that the famous pizza box art we've all seen awas created by cartoonist Gill Fox (1915-2004). Fox's signature appears in the bottom right corner. (Tom publishes an indispensable and award-winning comics magazine called Hogan's Alley. Follow him on Twitter @hoganmag.)
I based the box in the comic on this earlier pizza chef, from the 1950s or 60s, which was most likely also drawn by Gill Fox, although it didn't carry his signature. I prefer the more stylized clip-art look of the earlier drawing.
With pizza chef and box model Anthony Badamo
Fox's art also inspired a design I did in 2012 for my local pizza shop. I wrote a blog post about it at the time,  and noted that the printer offered an ink color called "standard pizza box red."
We hired a wonderful old-school sign painter named Dave Gunning to paint this massive menu board. Mr. Gunning has since retired, but many fine examples of his work are available to view on his Facebook page, Dad's Paper Signs.

If you're ever in the neighborhood, pop into Badamo's Pizza and try the Wayno pie.

At least the game would be quiet.

That's it from Bizarro Studios North for this week, but you can read more comics commentary on Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog, and check out Dan's always-beautiful Sunday Bizarro pages.
Dan's long-awaited Graphic Novel, Peyote Cowboy, will soon begin appearing on an Instagram near you. I've seen some of the preliminary pages, and can't wait to read the whole story as it unfolds on the web. Check it out here.

Bonus Track

"Got a Match?" is a record I hunted for years without ever hearing it. A college friend described it to me after hearing it at at uncle's house, and I knew that I needed a copy. When I finally found it, I was not disappointed. Naturally, I featured it on one of my mixtapes.



In the years since the Frank Gallop record was added to the archives, I acquired three other versions of this tune.
Lou Stein, Russ Conway, and the Daddy-O's each do a find job, but the Gallop version is still my favorite.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Nautical Notions & Pie Psychology

It's been an exciting week at Bizarro Studios North. We harvested our first batch of asparagus beans from the miniature garden on the deck, and found them to be delicious.
Also, we learned that the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Awards will be presented as a virtual event on Saturday, September 12. The annual gathering was originally scheduled to take place in Kansas City in June, but it of course had to be cancelled.
I'm excited to have been nominated for this year's award for newspaper panels, along with my friends and colleagues Dave Blazek and Mark Parisi. Both Dave and Mark are killer cartoonists, and it's an honor to be nominated with them. Had the weekend taken place as scheduled, you'd be seeing multiple gag photos of the three of us.

While we await the voting results, we all continue our daily work of making more cartoons. Here's the latest output from BSN.

An old-school diving helmet just might the ultimate accessory for self-isolation.

My drawing process often includes researching reference photos. For this one, I figured I could go to the record shelf and look at XTC's Black Sea album cover.
I was certain that a couple of the band members were holding helmets in the cover photo, and was shocked to see that the helmets were mostly out of frame. I'd also forgotten that elements of the backdrop cleverly spelled out the band's name.

Although I had to do a web search for a photo of a diving helmet, I enjoyed revisiting a great album by a favorite band.

When the next offspring appears, the firm will expand into cockroach extermination. Familiar folk tales often inspire cartoonists, and we've referred to this one in the past, both as Bizarro and WaynoVision panels.

This was the most popular gag of the week, and the second one with nautical elements. I considered running it on Friday, where I usually slot the strongest panel in the batch.

Incidentally, the Grater Antilles are at the same latitude as the Breadcrumb Islands.


The patient works as a three-ring crime scene investigator.

The sheet is but a transitory vessel.

We ended the week with a pair of pretentious flame snobs. Now I recall that I moved the grater gag to Wednesday so we wouldn't have consecutive puns as captions.

Thanks, as always, for reading the comic, and for your emails and comments. It's gratifying to know that some readers also follow the blog.

Speaking of blogs, Dan Piraro's weekly post is always worth reading, and showcases his latest gorgeous Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

XTC released this seafaring number as a single in March of 1980, a few months before the Black Sea LP.





Saturday, August 08, 2020

Tall in the Saddle

Congratulations to us all for making it through another seven days in the Summer of the Pandemic. I sincerely hope you and yours are safe and healthy, and I look forward to a time when every greeting doesn't require that wishful addendum.

Here's what I've been up to for the past week.

Monday's gag refers to an artist known for making large scale sculptures of everyday objects. I've always enjoyed the playful quality of his work, and the commitment to executing such ambitious sculptures.
Before writing today's post, I wasn't aware this one, but it's now my favorite Oldenburg piece.

Everyone has had a pesky song (or song fragment) stuck in their brain at one time or another. For this panel, I drew larvae of the moth Helicoverpa zea, an agricultural pest that's sometimes called an earworm because it's often found feeding on corn. They're also know as cotton bollworms or tomato fruitworms, names which are descriptive, but not nearly as catchy. 

I this young entrepreneur had thought to serve the lemonade in rustic Mason jars, the price could easily have been doubled.

Among alligators, this is known as the reverse iceberg effect. It's a phenomenon similar to humans appearing professional in online meetings by wearing a business top and pajama bottoms.

Friday's panel is a self-referential take on the familiar cartoon trope of a restaurant patron finding a fly in their soup. Just about every cartoonist has used that setup, but for our money, the king of soggy fly gags is J.C. Duffy, creator of The Fusco Brothers comic strip. We feel that we've accomplished something when we come up with a variation that J.C. hasn't done.
My colleague Jeff Knurek shared this photo of the comics page from the Indianapolis Star, with Bizarro stacked atop another fly gag, in Dave Coverly's Speed Bump. This newspaper is running grayscale images of the color comics, which look a little dark and muddy. We create a pure black & white version every day, which looks cleaner on newsprint.
Of course, we're grateful to every paper that carries Bizarro, in whatever form they choose to print it.

What, beans don't talk back to you?

Thanks for reading Bizarro, and for visiting the blog. Keep those comments and social media shares coming. Your feedback keeps us inspired to make more funnies for you.


Check out Dan Piraro's blog for his review of the week's gags, and to see his latest panoramic Sunday Bizarro page.

Recommended Listening

Kind of Like Spitting, the Portland indie band led by singer/guitarist Ben Barnett, has released an album of songs written by the late Pittsburgh musician Karl Hendricks. 

Learn 2: The Songs of the Karl Hendricks Trio is a heartfelt tribute to a great musician and writer who died in 2017, leaving behind his loving family, and a multitude of friends and fans.
I was privileged to work with Karl as the cover artist for many of his releases over the years, beginning in 1990 with the single by his first band, Sludgehammer. He was a joy to work with, and always had a clear idea for the way he wanted to records to look, while allowing me the freedom to bring my own style to the images.

The new KOLS album is available from Bandcamp now, and all proceeds from sales are being donated to Karl's family: Megan, Maeve, and Nell.



Saturday, August 01, 2020

Beating Around the Bushmiller

We're another week closer to the end of this annus horribilis, and January can't get here soon enough.

I don't have a clever intro this time, so let's jump right in to a review of the week's cartoons.
Mommy's little monetizer got some laughs, but the most enthusiastic responses to this panel were comments on Dad's t-shirt. It's a souvenir from the tour supporting their hit album, Some Record You'll Never Listen To.

This little packet of joy will spend the next decade or so in a kitchen drawer with multiple siblings.

Wednesday's cartoon can be read as a simple twist on the trope of people offering ideas to cartoonists or children's book authors. It might also serve as a comment on ostensible adults who feel the need to cosplay as military types. 

Not only are our homes now offices, they're also assumed to be miniature broadcast studios and A.V. departments.

Friday's panel pays punning tribute to Ernie Bushmiller, creator of the durable comic strip, Nancy. I tried to copy Bushmiller's drawing style as closely as possible for this one, and came away with renewed respect for his economical approach.

The dialog is a simplified version of an eloquent statement on comics by the late Jay Kennedy (1956-2007).

[I]n the fine arts, artists generally comment on the world only obliquely; and sadly, only those people who have the leisure to study art history can fully appreciate their comments. By contrast, cartoons are an art form accessible to all people. They can simply laugh at the jokes or look beyond them to see the artist’s view of the world. Cartoons are multi-leveled art accessible to everyone at whatever level they choose to enjoy.
Jay was a scholar and collector of underground comix, and a friend and champion of cartoonists, who helped and encouraged hundreds and hundreds of creators, including yours truly.

Zippy the Pinhead cartoonist Bill Griffith has recently finished work on a graphic biography of Bushmiller, which is sure to be required reading here at Bizarro Studios.
Nearly thirty years ago, I wrote and drew this Nancy-centric piece for Heavy Metal. It was part of a mail order catalog parody. I still think it's at least as valid as astrology.

It takes special skills to sell not-yet-real estate.

Thanks for reading Bizarro, and for all of the comments and reposts. Don't forget to read Dan Piraro's weekly blog post, where he discusses the week's cartoons, and shares his latest gorgeous Bizarro Sunday page.

Also, please make sure you're registered to vote!

Bonus Track

For the past couple of weeks, after the passing of Ennio Morricone, I've been on an Italian Soundtrack kick. This swingin' tune was written by Piero Piccioni, another master of the genre, and it always brings a smile to my face.