Saturday, April 17, 2021

Drinking Dogs & Digital Dough

Welcome to the latest cartoon recap from Bizarro Studios North. As usual, we have a fresh batch of gags, puns, and social observation to review with you, but only after we share another found image celebrating the Pipe of Ambiguity, Bizarro's newest Secret Symbol.

This week's blurry pipe pic is a frame from a 1971 TV ad with animation designed by cartoonist Gahan Wilson (1930-2019). Wilson was an early influence, and is one of my all-time favorite cartoonists. I own several well-worn books collecting his work, which I've had since my teens.

As a young nerd, I subscribed to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the first thing I did when it arrived was to find that issue's Gahan Wilson cartoon. 

Occasionally, he even provided a cover illustration. 

This is my favorite Gahan Wilson cartoon. The pulpy image was photographed from my copy of the 1975 Tempo Books paperback, The Weird World of Gahan Wilson.

It’s a perfect Wilson gag: elegant, simple, deadpan, weird, and hilarious.

Gahan Wilson's work is among many inspirations sloshing around in our skulls, and we're grateful for his consistently excellent output over the decades. 

Here are our latest stabs at prompting chuckles from readers.

This gag may have been born of nostalgia for dining at a restaurant, which we hope to experience again before the year is out. 

By the way, in the newspaper comic universe, the musical choice of angsty teens is naturally The Smythes.

In a move to serve the mythical aquatic creature demographic, Apple introduces their new SeaPhone.

Anyone who works behind a bar is automatically eligible for sainthood.

If my count is correct, this is the 25th clown gag to appear since I took over the Bizarro dailies in 2018, with four more in the queue as of this posting. I suppose the gag-writing section of my brain is a sort of clown car, with eternal room for just one more.

As usual, our favorite gag of the week appears on Friday. We love crytpocountry music, but we wish it consumed less energy.

In response to a few persnickety commenters, I'll mention that the vocal mic shown above is the latest Bluetooth version, so no cables are needed.

This monastic order recently accepted a new member, known as Brother Loophole.

As mentioned in some previous posts, we conceive and draw each panel in the vertical panel (portrait) layout, and then use that art to build the horizontal strip for papers that require that format. This usually requires that some elements are added or removed. Occasionally the process results in a superior version with a  different feel, as this one did.

The reader's eye roughly traces a "Z" on a vertical panel, similar to reading text on the page of a book, but follows an upper left to lower right diagonal path when reading a strip.

In our panel layout, the reader picks up the text message, followed by the smiling monk, finally landing on the bearded monk who's also reading the text we've already seen.

When reading the strip, the viewer again encounters the text message first, then sees the bearded monk's phone and his backward-glancing eyes, leading us to Brother Loophole. This sequence delays the payoff for an extra beat or two, which makes a slightly more effective composition.

Building the strips each week is always a bit of a puzzle. This part of the process is sometimes a frustrating exercise in problem-solving, but it  forces me to look at a gag's physical construction from more than one perspective.

That's the week in review, wrapping up with a dose of over-analysis. Thanks for coming back week after week. Don't forget to pop by Dan Piraro's blog to see what he has to say about this batch, and to read his latest magnificent Sunday Bizarro page.

See you next week, Jazz Pickles.

Bonus Track

The Monks: "Oh, How to Do Now"
from Beat Club (German TV, 1966)

Formed in 1964 by a group of American GIs stationed in Germany, the Monks were primitive, experimental forebears of punk and noise rock. They never took a vow of silence.

Note: Some YouTube videos are not available outside the US. On some phones, you must select "View Web Version" on the blog in order to see the video preview and link.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Harmonies and Humor

With spring in the air, we're scheduling time each day to get away from the drawing table, breathe outdoor oxygen, and absorb some vitamin D. We're hoping to spend today outdoors tending to yard maintenance, so our post will be a little briefer than usual.

This week's pipe pic, modeled by Tennesee Ernie Ford (1919-1991), comes from our vinyl archives. My copy of his terrific 1957 album, Ol' Rockin' Ern is in an unusual format: It's spread over three 45 rpm EPs. Each disc has the same cover photo, offering triple the viewing pleasure.

Today, Ford is mainly remembered for his 1955 recording of the Merle Travis song "Sixteen Tons," but prior to that unexpected hit, he became a household name after a few TV appearances as "Cousin Ernie" on I Love Lucy.

It's tough to compete with Ernie's friendly smile and immaculate pencil mustache, but we're here to show you the week's comics, so let's give it a go.

We hope we're able to come up with more hyena gags in the future, because hyenas are fun to draw.

Tuesday's panel was unexpectedly challenging. I wanted to draw the witness and artist realistically, in contrast to the goofy caricature. I intended to portray human features a caricature artist could latch onto, without making him look like a cartoon to begin with.

Wednesday's panel required photo research, and I believe the statue as depicted is relatively true to scale.

The neighbors complained about his baying at the full moon, but now he's fully house trained.
Your Bizarro trivia: The logo on the box of "Howl" biscuits is based on the original 1956 edition of Allen Ginsberg's poetry collection, as published by City Lights Books.
Alas, reality is seldom as stately as fiction, and these tools are colorful but ineffective.
Perhaps it's time workshop some fresh material.
Thanks for dropping by for our weekly review, and please keep those comments and pipe pics coming in. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's weekly blog, where he shares whatever is on his always-inquisitive mind, along with commentary on the week's gags and a brand new Sunday Bizarro page.
Bonus Track

Although it lasts for just 90 seconds, this video is a favorite here at Bizarro Studios North. Tennesee Ernie harmonizes with the Everly Brothers, and the three of them simultaneously play one guitar.

I've been a fan of the Everly Brothers for many years, and was lucky enough to see them perform live on their 1985 reunion tour.

Their sense of style was as big an influence as their music, and when my own band plays live, I often wear a "continental crossover" tie in honor of Don and Phil.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Mail Order Mischief and a Momentous Milestone

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. We're back to share the latest six-pack of gags, along with another amusing pipe-related image.

First, however, I'd like to mention that it's a special day for Your Obedient Cartoonist.

Twelve years ago today, my first published collaboration with Dan Piraro appeared. After nine years of writing gags, including three years as Bizarro's colorist, and a couple of week-long runs as guest cartoonist, I started doing the daily gags myself. After more than three years on the job, I'm learning a little more about the craft of cartooning every day, and loving the best gig I've ever had.

My sincere thanks go out to every reader, and eternal gratitude to my comrade Dan for leaving the side door unlocked and allowing me to show my work in the gallery he established in the late twentieth century. I hope to keep doing it for a long time to come.

We now return to our regular programming.

This week's pipe pic comes from a well-used book on my reference shelf: a reprint of the 1929 Johnson Smith novelties catalog, which seems appropriate as we just celebrated April Fools' Day.

This essential hardcover (in a slipcase, no less) was published in 1970. I most likely bought it from the remainder table in a mall bookstore, when such places existed. It includes a wonderful introduction by humorist, writer, storyteller, and radio and TV personality Jean Shepherd (1921-1999). Shepherd's voice, if not his name, is familiar to most of America thanks to endless airings of A Christmas Story, the film based on his writings. Shep, as he was known to fans, narrated the film, and made a brief on-camera appearance.

Before we go searching for our whoopee cushion and cigarette loads (a teenage favorite of a certain mononymous cartoonist), let's review the week in Bizarro.
What do scientists know, anyway? The vacuum of space is a hoax intended to control your behavior. Some readers interpreted this cartoon as a form of political commentary, but I prefer to see it as an exploration of the baffling human practice of willfully ignorant, even prideful self-destruction.
Tuesday's panel explains the real reason side-by-side washers and dryers are usually configured with their doors handles facing each other. They're less intimidating when they look a little goofy.
If you fall out of the boat, you'll be late for the torment and damnation. 
By the way, the gondolier of Hades is wearing wail-cancelling headphones.
On prior April Fools' Days, we've been known to place an intentionally incorrect Secret Symbol count in the signature. Last year, I even used a different number in each configuration of the comic. This time, however, I made a fool of myself by undercounting the number of symbols in this panel. There are actually seven, not six as indicated. 
If this gag didn't stimulate your funny bone, you can still laugh at the boneheaded cartoonist.
After a year of lockdown, many of us can relate to having a conversation with a plant.

While researching Saturday's gag, I learned that these ubiquitous annoyances are called "air dancers" or "tube men."

That's the recap for this week. Don't forget to pop by Dan Piraro's blog to see what he has to say about this batch of drollery. While you're there, take a peek at his latest magnificent Bizarro Sunday page, and feel free to shop for some groovy Bizarro swag.

Bonus Track

Charles Mingus: The Clown
Atlantic Records, 1957

Note: Some YouTube videos are not available outside the US. On some phones, you must select "View Web Version" on the blog in order to see the video preview and link.

Our previous bonus track (and pipe pic) featured Charles Mingus. I hadn't planned to share another of his  recordings this week, but when I was writing this post, I was reminded of the unusual collaboration between Mingus and the aforementioned Jean Shepherd, which shows a darker side of Shep.

Mingus described the genesis of this piece in an interview:

I felt happy one day. I was playing a little tune on the piano that sounded happy. Then I hit a dissonance that sounded sad, and I realized that the song had to have two parts. The story, as I told it first to Jean Shepherd, is about a clown who tried to please people—like most jazz musicians do—but whom nobody liked until he was dead.

And people think we're harsh toward clowns in Bizarro.

The Pipes Are Calling

If you run across any amusing images featuring pipes, be sure to alert us. We're on the lookout for pipe pics to share on the blog. Thanks!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Delete All

This post appears later than usual, thanks to unstable technology. I composed and formatted the entire article on Thursday, as I normally do, and scheduled it to publish early Saturday morning. I always revisit the draft a few times to make edits and corrections, which I did on Friday afternoon. I rewrote a sentence, but decided to revert to the original, and used the control-Z undo function.

Unfortunately, Google's Blogger platform assumes that after three undo key commands, the user wants to erase the entire post, and there's no way to recover it. So as you read this, please be assured that the original, lost version was wittier and better organized.

Before we begin our over-analysis of the week in Bizarro, let's enjoy a tangentially-related photo.

This week's intense pipe pic features composer, musician, and bandleader Charles Mingus (1922-1979). The shot was taken in 1959, during a session for Columbia Records in New York City. The albums from this period (Mingus Ah Um and Mingus Dynasty) are as brilliant and challenging as they were more than 60 years ago.

Mingus wrote an immensely entertaining autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, which is a rich mix of historical fact, dubious memories, and tall tales.

He also had an interesting connection to the comics world. The review excerpted above ran on Down Beat magazine in 1962, and was written by Harvey Pekar, creator if the autobiographical comic series American Splendor. Pekar often worked as a jazz critic, and this particular review didn't sit well with Mingus. The aggrieved musician with an angry letter, writing:

My efforts at blues singing were not meant to challenge such diverse masters as Joe Turner, Ray Charles or Big Bill Broonzy, and I don’t think their singing was meant as a challenge to each other or to me. No one could sing my blues but me (if you must call it singing), just as no one could holler for you if I decide to punch you in your mouth.

Were he still among us, one can only imagine how Mingus would respond to Instagram comments.

At the risk of inviting snarky judgment from present-day critics, we offer our most recent comics.

He applied to join the X-Men as The Incredible Null.

Oddly, the doctor prescribed brand-name medication.

Speaking of online critiques, this gag prompted a reader to ask, "Why are there so many Halloween themed ones lately?" We at Bizarro Studios refuse to confine our vampires, zombies, ghosts, and monsters to a single, fixed date. These creatures lead rich, full afterlives, and don't deserve to be forgotten 364 days of the year.

The mermaid myth is supposedly based on sailors mistaking manatees for human-fish hybrids.

After consuming enough shipboard rum, it might be possible to make that assumption, but the appeal of such a being remains a deeper mystery.

To be fair, that emblem does seem to be more suited to Old Scratch.

A true friend would tell you not to feel guilty about questioning your willfully counterfactual delusions.

Saturday's panel is based on an early draft of David Lynch's first feature-length film.

That wraps up another week of amusing words and pictures. Thanks, as always, for dropping by.

Don't forget to check out Dan Piraro's weekly blog, to read his always insightful commentary, and to laugh at a new Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

Charles Mingus: Boogie Stop Shuffle
from Mingus Ah Um

A longtime favorite here at BSN.

Note: Some YouTube videos are not available outside the US. On some phones, you must select "View Web Version" on the blog in order to see the video preview and link.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Turn On, Tune In, Go Bragh

It's the first day of spring, and we met the morning with a pleasant sense of optimism. This, of course, makes us nervous. The cartoonist's brain tends to be distrustful of its own happiness, but we'll try to enjoy the mood as much as we're able to.

This week's amazing pipe pic was originally published in Vue magazine in 1954, and shows Dada artist Marcel Duchamp smoking dancer Ann Miller's leg. Thanks to Jazz Pickle Dr. Joe S, of Melbourne, Australia for alerting us to this spectacular image.

I've always had an interest in the Dadaists, and their anarchic approach to art, music and writing. When I was self-publishing minicomix in the late 1980s, I named one of my books Festive Desperation, after the title of a 1916 masked dance performance staged by the Dadaist collective Cabaret Voltaire.

The book contained a series of ink drawings executed in a jagged style I experimented with for a time. The cover was a visual interpretation of the title, which reminded me of some of my fellow citizens' misguided jingoism. Unfortunately, that still exists.

Most of the interior pages were drawings of friends, and one (above) was a self-portrait.

Returning to the more recent past, here's a look at this week's Bizarro comics.

We kicked off the week with a look at what really happens in your basement. Some gags require photo research, which I believe is always worth the effort.

Apparently, they abandoned the flat by the roadside. In case any blog readers plan to make a comment correcting me, a few helpful internet citizens already pointed out that the vehicle shown is called a sedan, sedan chair, or litter, but not a carriage.

For Saint Patrick's Day, we offered an psychedelic alternative for those who don't drink stout or whiskey. Naturally, these electric edibles are endorsed by Timothy O'Leary.
Thursday's gag showcases a member of the little-known United Utilitarian Church.
And try to limit yourself to four lobes a day.
After centuries of sporting a long, curly mane, Vlad now shaves his head, but he kept the fancy mustache.

The second vampire was modeled on Canadian-American actor Oliver Platt, but I don't recall the reason.. 

Perhaps something about the initial sketch reminded me of him, but I'm not seeing it now.

That's the latest batch from Bizarro Studios North. Thanks, as always, for visiting. Don't forget to check out my partner Dan Piraro's weekly blog post. It's always loaded with interesting observations, some of which even mention the comics. While you're there, you can also admire his latest panoramic Bizarro Sunday page.

See you next week!

Bonus Tracks

The old minicomic page shared above mentioned my teenage wish to have lived as a beatnik, although my ideas were initially based on mass media's twisted appropriation of that subculture.

As I grew older, I learned more about the Beats, but retained a fondness for the mainstream America's goofy take on beatniks, exemplified by this 1959 record written and sung by Rod McKuen (credited here as "Dor.")

Note: Some YouTube videos are not available outside the US. On some phones, you must select "View Web Version" on the blog in order to see the video preview and link.
My copy of this record is in rough condition, but fortunately other researchers have posted the song on YouTube.

"The Beat Generation" inspired punk rock musician Richard Hell's 1976 single, "Blank Generation." 
Hell's band featured the stunning, angular guitar work of Robert Quine, and his drummer was a guy named Marc Bell, who was later rechristened Marky Ramone.