Saturday, September 25, 2021

Designated Dummy

Autumn has arrived, and here in Hollywood Gardens, PA, we're wondering what fresh hell the season will bring, thanks to a significant segment of the citizenry who don't care about their own well-being, let alone those of their fellow humans. This cloud of pessimism may be seasonally influenced, but today, I stand by it. 

The beyond-foolish behavior of certain knuckleheads can at least serve to remind us that many kind and thoughtful people are also around us, but at times, hope for the future of Homo sapiens is difficult to muster.

Please excuse the gloomy intro. Serves me right for following current events.

However, my mood lifted considerably when I happened upon this elegant and striking pipe pic of Eva Green, in a still from Tim Burton's 2016 film, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.


In fact, the smile this image brought to my face prompted me to share this week's Bizarro comics, in hopes that you might experience a moment or two of levity as a result of our artistic labors.


Monday's gag utilized the fictional Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Since its debut in the 1984 film Ghostbusters, the character has become recognized as the preeminent marshmallow creature, displacing Campy, the disturbing mascot of Campfire brand marshmallows.
 

Coincidentally, Monday was the birthday of Bill Bryan, a special effects character designer and performer who built the original Stay Puft costume, and wore it in the movie. A reader pointed this out to me, and I had to admit that I wasn't familiar with Mr. Bryan, but enjoyed the synchronicity of this gag appearing on his birthday.


Oddly enough, the customer was headed to Wall Street.
 

Sometimes it's all about the optics. Or should that be cycloptics?
 

Dad jokes exist in every species.
 

Potatofolk can be deep, which shouldn't be a surprise, as they grow underground. 

This one required some creative rearrangement to convert to the horizontal strip layout. I even had to change one of the secret symbols to maintain the total of four in the art.
 
Transitioning from the melancholy to the ridiculous, we present our final gag of the week. This attitude deserves a name, but I haven't come up with one. It would have to be the opposite of a "sweet spot." The panel was based on that maddening phenomenon of online queries from people whose Google has apparently stopped working.

Thanks for joining us for another comic roundup. You know, I feel a lot better now than I did when writing that opening paragraph. Your readership and support are greatly appreciated, and keep us coming back to the drawing table every day.

Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog, for his take on the week's cartoons (along with other topics of interest) and to gaze in wonder at his latest Sunday Bizarro page.

Also, a new episode of Dan/Diego's graphic novel Peyote Cowboy appeared this week, and it's absolutely stunning. The whole story is available to read for free. If you enjoy it, I encourage you to support his work via the Peyote Cowboy Patreon page. This project is epic, and the art and writing are masterful.

Bonus Track

I chose this song for one reason alone: My outlook always improves when I listen to NRBQ, and the record they made with Skeeter Davis puts me over the moon. Here's a favorite selection. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Four Thumbs Up

As I mentioned last time, I'm attempting to reduce the amount of physical stuff I have throughout the house and studio. It's an interesting process for someone who's been a lifelong accumulator. I'm rediscovering things I haven't seen in years, such as this sketch of a strange beast smoking a pipe.

It's an ink drawing on a 3" x 5" index card from January 2011. I found it in a file drawer along with a couple other index card sketches. I believe I was sitting behind a table at a comics convention when I made these stream of consciousness doodles to pass the time, and to hand to passersby.

Let's look at this week's Bizarro comics, and see if my drawing skills have improved at all since then.

This was the first of two clown-based gags bookending the week's output. My partner in comics, Dan Piraro, often comments on the number of clown comics I produce. In a recent entry on his blog, he articulated something I've always felt but never clearly expressed:

[F]amous clowns are often quite hilarious and artful. Those ones that roam the audiences before Cirque de Soleil shows come to mind. It’s the local, shopping mall, birthday party, amateur or semi-pro clowns that give the art form a bad name. Those kinds of clowns are sort of the karaoke of humor; anyone can do it but you might need to be real drunk to tolerate it for long.

Thanks for putting that into words, amigo.

Although I've drawn koalas before, while studying reference material for this drawing, I learned that Koalas have two opposable thumbs on each front paw, helping them climb, hold onto trees, and eat. As if they weren't freaky enough.

A gag utilizing the old reliable "plus one" technique, or as we call it, the Tufnel Method.

During my ongoing cleanup campaign, I also came across a set of 3-D postcards featuring some of my late twentieth century art.

These were released around 1992, and were produced by my friend Ray Zone (1947-2012). An early supporter of my comics, Ray was a generous champion of independent cartoonists. He was also a master of old school stereoscopic images, and was widely known as "The 3-D King of Hollywood."

My quirky, non-linear career has certainly enabled me to meet and become friends with a lot of interesting and talented people, many of whom were already heroes of mine. Eternal thanks go out to Ray, in whatever dimension(s) he currently inhabits.

 
Swimming, like life, is all about balance and moderation.
 

This panel was built on a sort of visual pun. The word "terrapin" doesn't sound at all like "terrain," but its spelling is similar enough for a reader's brain to make that assumption. It works as a joke when read silently, but not when spoken aloud. If there's a name for this type of wordplay, I'd love to know what it is.

We closed out the week with a second clown gag, and a more conventional pun. Like Monday's clown gag, this also contains seven of Bizarro's secret symbols.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope some of these words and pictures provided a chuckle and a momentary distraction from the awful goings-on in the world. 

For more wisdom like the clown assessment quoted earlier, visit Dan Piraro's Bizarro blog, where he also shares his latest Sunday page, which is always a magnificent work of cartoon art.

Bonus Track

The Who: Under My Thumb, 1967

 
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The Who recorded this Rolling Stones song to raise bail money for their friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who were jailed after an infamous drug bust. The Who's bass player, John Entwistle was away on his honeymoon, so Pete Townshend overdubbed the bass parts on this, and a cover of "The Last Time." The record was available in shops just two days after it was recorded, by which time Mick and Keith had already been released from jail.


 
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Sunday, September 12, 2021

Peanut Gallery

Greetings, Jazz Pickles. As usual, we're starting off with a pipe pic, and we have one that's odd and fascinating.

 
This comic is from a short-lived side project of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. Schulz collaborated with another cartoonist named Jim Sasserville on It's Only a Game, which ran from November, 1957 to January, 1959. Each gag was based on a sport or game. 

Schulz cancelled It's Only a Game due to the increasing demands on his time to produce Peanuts, which was becoming wildly popular. He almost never included adults in Peanuts, and it's interesting to see these characters drawn in his unmistakable style.

We're not planning to start any other comic features, and will continue to concentrate on Bizarro. Following are our most recent offerings.

 
Oscar Wilde's enduring story is still relevant, and it seemed to me that the anonymous online behavior of many people paralleled Dorian Gray's pursuit of hedonistic pleasures while avoiding their ill effects, or at least the physical ones.
 
 
A simple gag, which gave me an excuse to load up the panel with Bizarro secret symbols.

Several readers thought that the character had pieces of paper attached to his body with magnets, or, more disturbingly, tacks. These comments prompted me to look at the art again to see if it could have been made clearer that the character is covered in tattoos resembling children's art as displayed on a refrigerator.

 
By removing the white color around each image, I think this version would have worked better, making it more apparent that the icons, as well as the edges of each piece of paper and the magnets are part of dad's tattoos. It's usually best to simplify a drawing, and in this case, it would have been smarter to simplify the coloring as well. I'm always learning (or relearning) something.
 
 
When someone gives you a thumbs up sign, you normally see the pad of the thumb rather than the nail, but drawn that way, I thought it looked like a toe.
 
My favorite detail in this one was employing a parody of the Munsingwear Company's Penguin clothing logo as a stand-in for Bizarro's inverted bird symbol.
 
 
Sometimes a farmboy needs a quiet place to sulk in peace.
 
 
Friday's panel gave me an opportunity to draw two classic comic characters: Lucy van Pelt, from Peanuts, and the protagonist of George Herriman's Krazy Kat
Peanuts © Peanuts Worldwide, LLC

I drew Lucy sitting behind an early version of her psychiatric booth, without the overhead sign, as in this 1959 strip. This made it easier to format the gag for the strip layout.

 
Drawing Krazy Kat also reminds me to recommend Michael Tisserand's excellent biography, Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White.

 
They wrote their own refreshingly honest and realistic vows.

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North. If you're looking for additional backstage comics talk, direct your browser to Dan Piraro's blog. Dan's writings are always insightful and thought-provoking, and he also shares his newest glorious Bizarro Sunday page.

Thanks for stopping by. We'll be back next week with another batch of amusing words and pictures.

Bonus Track

Hans Blum: Charly Brown
Electrola Records, Germany, 1959

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This German remake of the Coasters' classic, "Charlie Brown" was digitized from my record collection. Years ago, I found a stack of 45s, all featuring popular American rock and folk tunes with German lyrics, recorded by German performers. Many of them are amusingly schizophrenic, with a military, non-rocking rhythm.

Written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, the song had nothing to do with the Peanuts character, but that's no reason not to share this wacky version with you.

Also, it has one of the greatest picture sleeves of all time.


 


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Saturday, September 04, 2021

Art Apathy

This week, we had a small taste of the remnants of Hurricane Ida here in southwest Pennsylvania. Our inconveniences at home base were relatively minor: some water trickling in the basement for part of the day, and a few hours without electric service. We feel fortunate, knowing the devastating effects this storm (and other disasters) are having on so many. We hope that you and yours are safe and well, and that we'll all get through everything that's battering us, climatically and otherwise, very soon. If our drawings and jokes provide at least some temporary relief from the world's horrors, please know that we consider it our privilege to make them for you.

Last week, I was tickled to receive another family heirloom pipe pic, which I'm pleased to share, with the permission of my friend Tom W.

This is a great shot of Tom's mother, Gertrude, who would have turned 101 on August 26. Gertrude (known to all by her nickname Sally) was photographed in 1946 or 1947, hamming it up with army gear from her brothers, and holding a pipe in her teeth with a saucy smile. The image above is a clip from this full-length shot:

Thanks to Tom for allowing us to share Sally's photo with our readers. Most of the pipe pics I've found online are of men, so it was doubly refreshing to receive this one.

We can't compete with Sally's charming picture, but we'll try to make up for it in volume, by discussing our six latest cartoon panels.

It seems everyone has moved to online meetings, even absurdist theater characters. A Zoom staging of Waiting for Godot might serve to emphasize the protagonists' isolation rather well.

My drawings were loosely based on a 1961 production which starred Zero Mostel and Burgess Meredith. The play was filmed and broadcast on network television in April of that year. In that production, Mostel played Estragon and Meredith was Vladimir. I reversed their roles for this panel, purely for compositional purposes. Fortunately, nobody called me out for such artistic liberty. 

Quite a few readers remarked that they thought the characters were meant to be Laurel and Hardy. Outside of the derbies and body types, I don't see a resemblance, and I'd never draw Oliver Hardy with a handlebar mustache. He was known for a small toothbrush type mustache.

If I had a star-spangled outfit like this wizard, I'd probably wear it whenever I could, but there's something to be said for the simple black cloak.

Few people know that these two familiar names were actually siblings.

Who knew Mom was speaking literally?

Our blasé artistes were modeled on real-life French Impressionists Edgar Degas and Paul Cézanne. Cézanne is usually referred to as a Post-Impressionist, but I think I can get away with including him in the comic.

I enjoy using inanimate objects as comic characters, and usually try to avoid giving them faces or limbs. However, I did choose to show the speaking character as an open book, which then gave me an opportunity to make it even clearer that the second book was a therapist.

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North. If you have a long weekend off from work with the upcoming Labor Day Holiday, here's hoping it's enjoyable. Don't forget to cruise on over to Dan Piraro's blog to find out what's on his active and curious mind, and to view his latest glorious Sunday Bizarro page.

Found in the Wild

Recently, my friend Rico Gagliano, the multitalented journalist, podcaster and radio host, posted a photo of a Bizarro comic he spotted when making a purchase at a frame shop in Los Angeles.

He mentioned that he knew the cartoonist, and the framer told him, "I put that up last year 'cause it’s about frame shops, but what’s funny is it’s actually come true. Everyone made improvements to their homes during lockdown, and now they’re framing art to put up in them. This is the busiest we’ve ever been."

When the comic originally ran last summer, I heard from a few frame shop owners who told me that their sales were up when people were spending more time inside their homes. I was pleased to hear it, as I encourage supporting professional framers as much as possible. A treasured work of art deserves a well-made frame for display.

Bonus Track

Neil Innes: I Like Cézanne
from The Innes Book of Records
Originally broadcast June 9, 1990

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Neil Innes is often referred to as "The Seventh Python," acknowledging his extensive collaboration with the Monty Python troupe. His post-Rutles BBC series, The Innes Book of Records, ran from 1979 to 1981. It wasn't broadcast here in the US, but most of it can be found on YouTube.



 


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Saturday, August 28, 2021

Dark Waters

This week, we're opening with a pipe pic hat trick, courtesy of Denis Kitchen, by way of FoB Hank E. We have three related photos of an item from Denis's collection.

The first two images are side and top panels of the box containing an official Smokey Stover Screwball Pipe, and the third one shows the actual item. Smokey Stover was a wacky "screwball" comic strip created by Bill Holman (1903-1987), starring a loony firefighter. The strip ran from 1935 until Holman's retirement in 1972. In fact, Holman and his comic will grace us with at least one more pipe pic sometime in the future. He drew hundreds of pipes during his career.

Holman loved puns and nonsense words. He was particularly fond of the word "foo," which was the basis for many puns in his strip, and Smokey often referred to himself as a Foo Fighter.

Here at Bizarro Studios, our humor is less manic than good ol' Smokey Stover, but we love that style too. Here's our own comic output from the past week.

It's best to be honest upfront, to let someone know you're not playing games with them, even when you're playing a game.

 

 
This couple wrote their own wedding captchas, although a competent robot could easily beat most humans at this sort of thing.
 
 
Certain cephalopods love to prank their friends. Thankfully, a third squid was nearby and snapped a photo for us to use as a reference.

Drawing the ink cloud was a slightly hypnotic exercise, and I felt relaxed when I finished the art. I only wish I'd had the appropriate ink on hand for the project.

The sketchbook preliminary shows that this image presented itself to me fully formed.

 
I was also pleased with the strip version, which allowed for additional ink-cloud therapy.
 
 

The past eighteen months have been an emotional windfall for introverts, and have taught some others that it is possible to enjoy quiet and solitude. Of course, it'd be preferable if we had the choice of gathering or being alone without having to factor in fear of infection by a willfully ignorant segment of the populace.

Their most serious disagreement was over the use of a litter box versus the backyard.

Over the millennia, washing instructions have become more specific but less comprehensible.

That's the latest from my drawing board. Thanks for visiting. Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog for additional commentary on these gags, and whatever else is currently occupying his active and curious mind. While you're there, you can also marvel at his latest masterful Bizarro Sunday page.

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Bonus Track

Mose Allison: "Look What You Made Me Do"
from the album I've Been Doin' Some Thinkin' (1968)

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Known as "The Sage of Tippo, Mississippi," Mose John Allison, Junior (1927-2016) is a longtime favorite here at Bizarro Studios North. I was lucky enough to see him perform many times. In the mid-1990s, Mose's daughter attended college here in Pittsburgh, and when he visited, he usually played at a local club. We also traveled to hear him in Georgetown on many occasions, including a particularly memorable New Year's Eve show.

Allison was the subject of one of about 150 portraits I did many years ago as a project for Rhino Records. At a concert in 2001, he graciously signed the original art.

Thanks for the music, Mose.

It's time for me to wrap up this post. My musical trio has a gig to get ready for this evening. We'll be sure to include one of Mose Allison's songs.



 


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