Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Sincerest Form of Mockery

This is the weekly dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I have been writing and drawing the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics since 2018. My partner and friend Dan Piraro created Bizarro in the late twentieth century and continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.


Welcome to this year's first post-eclipse blog entry.

Here in Hollywood Gardens, PA, we witnessed a nearly total eclipse (with 97 percent coverage). We used proper eye protection and nobody was raptured, so it was a good day.

I realize that it wasn't the same as seeing totality, but if I had consistently received 97 percent on tests during my academic years, I'd have been ecstatic.

Last week, In recognition of the fifteenth anniversary of my first published Bizarro gag, Dan Piraro and I recorded a video chat where we talked about our first meeting, and how our partnership has evolved over the years. Our memories were fairly consistent, and we didn't say anything embarrassing, but we could have been clearer on who does what. We may cover that in our next video.

Faithful Jazz Pickle Danielle A. hipped me to this somber pipe pic, originally published in the Toronto Daily Star.

The model is future actor Alan Alda at age two. According to Alda's 2005 memoir, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed:

A photographer from the Toronto Daily Star came backstage, and my father got the idea that if he posed me in a way that made me look as if I were smoking a pipe, the paper would be sure to print the picture and the burlesque company would get some unusual publicity. They dressed me up in my woolen suit and posed me gravely holding a pipe with tobacco in it. They seem to have invented a new name for me, too. I was born Alphonso D'Abruzzo, but that day I was Alphonse Robert Alda, "Ali" for short.

Big thanks to Danielle for this tidbit of showbiz history tidbit.

Here's the totality of this week's Bizarro dailies, which can be viewed without any protective gear.

Personally, I'd like to see their imitations of each other.

Tuesday's panel intentionally omitted the Dynamite of Boom Secret Symbol. That guy doesn't need any additional hazards.

I'll go out on a limb and claim that the expression "pipe down" originated in or near Scotland.

Everything at their place is big and fancy. Imagine the chamber pot.

According to the National Archives, the commonly accepted but probably untrue story is that Hancock's signature on the Declaration of Independence was extra large so that "someone can read my name without spectacles."

This one's for my good buddy Tom, who's been exercising his brain by learning Welsh on the DuoLingo app. I love the gag, but drawing the expanded Scrabble board was an ordeal. It's almost the equivalent of four Scrabble boards grafted together. An actual board is 15 by 15 squares, and mine is 29 by 29, with the center row and column being areas of overlap. I just did the math and see that I drew 841 squares.

Although the board is insanely detailed, this panel is still rather sparse and contains no Secret Symbols. I thought they'd distract from the gag.

The black & white panel has a more dramatic look.

The strip layout shows less of the board, but I was able to make the tile racks ridiculously wide.

My first sketch took a different approach, but I scrapped it for the Scrabble version, which had a funnier drawing and a punchier caption.

I also discovered that a Welsh language version of the game exists. Its board is a standard 15 by 15 grid, and some tiles have double letters or two-letter combinations.

We finished the week with a bit of silly medical wordplay.

Thanks for reading the comics and blog. Come by again next Saturday for more of this kind of stuff.

Bonus Track

Clarence "Frogman" Henry
"Ain't Got No Home"
Originally released in 1959
by Argo Records

A giant of New Orleans music, Clarence "Frogman" Henry died this week at age 87. His first record gave him the nickname he carried for the rest of his life. 

Frogman was a terrific entertainer. We saw him perform outside of New Orleans in Metairie, Louisiana sometime in the 1990s, and he was a hurricane of joy and fun.

A Boatload of Bizarro


Saturday, April 06, 2024


This is the weekly dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I have been writing and drawing the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics since 2018. My partner and friend Dan Piraro created Bizarro in the late twentieth century and continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.


Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — "God damn it, you’ve got to be kind."
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

A friend shared these words from Vonnegut's book God Bless You, Mister Rosewater in response to recent events that I won't discuss here. 

The longer I'm around, the more sense this sentiment makes.

The other day I took a rare break from the drawing table to meet a friend for coffee and conversation. We learned interesting things about each other and helped one another in a few small ways. After spending ninety minutes out of the studio, I felt energized and got more work done than on a "normal" day.

Sharing time with people you care for is truly a kindness to them and to yourself.

I'm keeping the intro brief this week because I'm exhausted from filing our taxes. Although I have someone who wades through the documents and prepares our returns, there's still enough math to wipe me out. Not to mention anxiety caused by the fear of missing a signature line.

Thank the gods we have specialists for this stuff!

Blog reader Ian sent this pipe-related photo from almost a hundred years ago, and I'm pleased to share it with you.

Mondrian's Glasses and Pipe
 André Kertész, 1926

Aside from the pipe, Mondrian had some stylish spectacles, didn't he?

A tip of the Bizarro porkpie to Ian. I wasn't familiar with André Kertész, and appreciate the art history lesson.

For more contemporary and less historic art, let's check out this week's Bizarro comics.

My April Fools' Day gag includes a bogus symbol count. In fact, there are only four Secret Symbols in this panel. The number wasn't random, though. This cartoon is the 1,967th I've written and drawn since I started doing the Bizarro dailies.

The terms of investment are cash on the barrelhead.

Someday, I should compile a book of my inanimate object comics. This tabletop drama is the most recent example, but it won't be the last.

She busted me with science.

After a long workday, it's nice to shed the aloha shirt and relax.

I imagined them chilling out in formalwear because anything more casual than their work clothes would tend toward nudity.

If you spot this panel in the wild, particularly at your local Trader Joe's, I'd appreciate it if you could snap a photo. Oh, and grab yourself a container of the triple ginger snap cookies. Trust me on that.

One eternal question is answered, while the other remains a mystery.

That's my cartoon output for the first week of April. I hope some of these trifles amused you. 

We'll return next Saturday with another selection of humorous words and pictures. Thanks for joining us.

Oh, yes, and don't stare at the eclipse without proper eye protection.

Bonus Track

The Jam: "But I'm Different Now"
From the album Sound Affects
Polydor Records, 1980

Bizarro in Abundance


Saturday, March 30, 2024

Habeas Lepus

This is the weekly dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I have been writing and drawing the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics since 2018. My partner and friend Dan Piraro created Bizarro in the late twentieth century and continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.


I’m a great believer in conversation as part of the artistic process.
Pete Townshend

I was delighted to find this quote from a favorite musician in a recent New York Times interview.

I'll keep today's intro brief, and offer thanks to Mr. Townshend for justifying my penchant for talking about the ins and outs of making comics. Oh, and gratitude to all who read the blog and newsletter. Your comments and questions are always welcome.

I don't remember where I found today's pipe pic, but Easter weekend is the perfect time to share it.

I believe the image came from a children's book. If you recognize it and know the source, please send a comment so I can credit the artist. And let me know if they're about to play tennis or go snowshoeing.

UPDATE: Some knowledgeable readers (see the comments section) have identified the artist as Lowell Hess (1912-2014). Hess was a prolific illustrator with an appealing mid-century Little Golden Book style as exemplified by the charming bunnies shown above (from the book My Christmas Treasury). While searching for examples of his work, I also found several wonderful two-color images that remind me of some Charley Harper illustrations. He was no slouch when it came to caricatures, either.

Thanks to the Bizarro community for hipping me to Lowell Hess.

Let's see if any bunnies turn up in this week's gags.

The childhood hours I spent watching Fractured Fairy Tales cartoons paid off with this gag, although it's more of a reality tale.

The Amazon Prime business model's influence continues to expand.

Ben Franklin said, "[i]n this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes," so Death paying taxes seemed a likely occurrence.

Side effects of this treatment may include hallucinations and a 1960s earworm.

Your cartoonist was on an Easter egg roll when writing gags in February, as evidenced by the second bunny panel in a row

In fact, we pulled off an Easter Bunny hat trick with three consecutive rabbit gags. You know how they multiply.

And that wraps up another round of cartoons from yours truly. Thanks for your kind attention. 

Please stop by next week to check out our April Fools' Week offerings.

Bonus Track

Wendy Rene: "Bar B Q"
Stax Records, 1964

The arrival of sunny spring weather makes me think of outdoor cooking and this catchy number by soul singer Wendy Rene.

Looking for more Bizarro? Here you go.


Saturday, March 23, 2024

Welcome to the Working Week

This is the weekly dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I have been writing and drawing the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics since 2018. My partner and friend Dan Piraro created Bizarro in the late twentieth century and continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.


No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.
Sonny Rollins

Our colleague Mark Parisi, cartoonist of the award-winning panel Off the Mark, recently started a lively social media discussion after hearing an interview with a writer who said, "Don't try to find ideas. Wait for ideas to find you." Naturally, people who meet regular deadlines disagreed with this advice, poetic as it might sound.

I didn't hear the interview myself, and I wonder if they provided context about an idea being a starting point that may or may not lead to creative work, but taken on its own it sounds like a plan for accomplishing nothing.

The words of master musician Sonny Rollins make more sense. Creating anything of value requires effort and persistence. They're not called works of art for nothing. The idea of lying around waiting for the heavens to drop something into one's lap is laughable.

Each part of Rollins's sentence is important.

No matter how you feel
When you work on deadlines, other people depend on you. If your output stops, they can't do their jobs. Deadlines don't care if you're depressed or hung over or have the flu. You have to keep feeding the frogs. It's important not to just meet deadlines, but to get ahead of them, so you can have sick days or take a vacation.

Get up
A regular routine trains your body and brain that it's time to be productive, whether you're facing a deadline, or are working on a novel or other project with no due date. It might be even more important for an open-ended situation.

Dress up
We're not talking about a uniform or a suit and tie, but just as your pajamas gently tell your body to wind down and prepare to sleep, your daywear signals that it's time to be productive. Again, it's about being active instead of passive.  
Show up
Choose a location (or locations) where you can explore ideas and let your mind do its thing. Showing up also means getting to work, whether it's a tiny scribble, a word or phrase you've overheard or seen, or another undeveloped bit. The point is to start with something and move on from there. Creative works of any kind (visual art, recipes, poetry, prose, etc.) rarely emerge from the mind fully formed

Unlike a blank canvas, a small fragment can be edited, expanded, refined, erased, polished, twisted, and beaten into shape.

Successful farmers don't wait to see what grows in their fields. They select and plant crops with intention and nurture them to produce a useful harvest.

I'm confident in the quote's authenticity, as it comes from the recently published Notebooks of Sonny Rollins, edited by Sam V.H. Reesentary, who had access to the musician's archives. Since the notebooks were physical journals, the words were presumably handwritten by Mr. Rollins.

We're grateful for Sonny Rollins, who is still with us at age 93, for his music and wisdom.

We found today's perplexing pipe pic on eBay:

The listing was titled "German Toy Head with Pipe." I'm fascinated by that continuous line of hair and beard encircling this character's cranium.

Now, let's get up, dress up, and check in on the latest Bizarro cartoons.

We kicked off the week with a reconfiguration of a panel I sketched last October:

I decided at the time that the snowblower nightmare wasn't a great gag in that form, so I set it aside. When I looked at it again, I realized that the real joke was the snowperson removing their eyes to go to sleep, and redrew it for this week's batch.

That sketch also inspired a recent James Bond snowman gag, since I was thinking about things that might scare a snow-being.

I'm still learning not to fret if a gag doesn't work the first time, because it may eventually turn into a usable joke, or more than one.

Unfortunately, I might have jinxed us weather-wise by running the sleeping snowman in March. We'd been having lovely spring weather until Monday when temperatures dropped and we had snowfall.

The real challenge is finding those tiny keyboards.

The drawing and dialog were reverse-engineered from the caption.

Drawing this triggered a memory from my childhood. Charlie, a kid from our neighborhood adopted a phrase that he drove into the ground over an entire summer. His go-to insult was "You're a cumbersome mass of plasmatic gel." 

Every time he said it, which was maddeningly often, he'd smugly walk away as if he'd just destroyed an opponent with his bon mot.

Charlie, if you're still around I nominate you for a Golden Glob.

We all recognize someone we know here. Don't be that person.

As with the Golden Glob panel, this one resulted from my eye for words, particularly pairs of nearly identical words. That's probably a product of my daily routine of working the crossword, Wordle, and Spelling Bee in The New York Times, plus a few other verbal puzzles and games.

Note: This cartoon is not a critique of the actual musicians. They're passionate about their belief in justice and human rights, and put their money where their collective mouth is. 

This one even made me a little queasy. 

That's it for another round of cartoons from yours truly. Thanks for showing up.

See you next week with more words, pictures, music and whatnot.

Bonus Track #1

Sonny Rollins: "Alfie's Theme"
Impulse! Records, 1966

The musician's original score for the 1966 film. The album has six tracks running just over thirty minutes and is a favorite here at Bizarro Studios North.

Bonus Track #2

Elvis Costello: "Welcome to the Working Week"
From My Aim is True, Stiff Records 1977

The Sonny Rollins quote reminded me of this song from Costello's first album.

Welcome to the working week
I know it don't thrill you, I hope it don't kill you
Welcome to the working week
You gotta do it till you're through it so you better get to it

When I bought this from Jim's Records in 1977, I played it nonstop for several days, and have done so regularly ever since. Every note of it is etched in my memory.

Even More Bizarro for You