Saturday, May 21, 2022

Fumetti & Cumuli

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

Tuesday was Primary Election Day here in Pennsylvania, and I ventured out of the studio to get an "I Voted" sticker. The Raving Maniac Party in our state presented a slate of reality deniers who worked tirelessly to outdo each other's lies about the 2020 election, and trampled each other to stand out as the most extreme religious fanatic. Thankfully, I don't watch commercial TV, and was at least spared their ads.

Our pipe pic model for the week is Theodore Seuss Geisel, more popularly known as Dr. Seuss.

The photo was taken in the Seuss's La Jolla, California home in 1959. His shiny corncob appears to be sprouting a plant, and he's watched over by his 1940 sculpture of a creature he called the Blue-Green Abelard.

This week's comics are thematically related, and in one way or another treat speech balloons and thought bubbles as props within the panels. The title of this post refers to the cartoonist's names for the devices we use to convey speech and thought. 

"Fumetti" is the Italian word for "bubbles," and is also the word for "comic strips." "Cumuli" comes from "cumulus," the fluffy type of cloud, and is another word for thought balloons. I learned these terms from Mort Walker's 1980 book, The Lexicon of Comicana

Mort was the creator of the still-running comic strip Beetle Bailey. His Lexicon was based in part on research, but he also invented many of the terms for comic devices. It's a classic book, long out of print, and I'm lucky enough to have a copy in my home library.

Comic strips with continuing characters sometimes riff on a gag idea for a full week, and I wanted to try something along those lines with Bizarro. Let's see how it worked out.

We kicked off our series with a fairly straightforward entry. In order to draw a person squinting to read text, I had to take a selfie for reference.

The premise of the gag forced me to think of an unconventional layout for the strip, with the word balloon—excuse me, fumetto—centered between the two characters. This version might work a little better than the panel, since it's clearer that the balloon is a physical object that they can see.

This one uses a fumetto/cumulus hybrid to illustrate a common expression. Even now, the image momentarily confuses me, and I drew it.

Daxter Slater, a friend and fellow cartoonist, commented that this gag aligned perfectly with his experience as a member of the Deaf community. I was glad it made him laugh, and I appreciated the reminder that this scenario depicts an aspect of real life for many people. Daxter's comment made me see the comic from a different perspective, for which I am grateful. 

Check out Daxter's work on his art site.

Apparently, some police departments still use cassette tapes to record interrogations, so the drawing isn't as anachronistic as one might think.

The recorder in the strip version of this gag needed a longer cord, and we switched out a Secret Symbol.

I'm not exactly sure what that string of emoji means, but it isn't complimentary. 

This panel incorrectly indicates a total of six Secret Symbols, but there are actually seven. This error got past me, Dan Piraro, and our editors at King, but it originated here. I feel like such a šŸ¤”.

We wrapped up Balloon Week with a visit to the doctor.

A couple years back, we did a panel that foreshadowed this week's theme.

I had fun doing this batch of gags, and I hope you enjoyed them. Thanks for your readership and support.

If you'd like to read different words, sign up for my weekly newsletter. It's free, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Every one features a sneak peek at a future Bizarro cartoon, and a dusty old drawing or design from the archives.

Don't forget to pop by Dan Piraro's blog to see what he has to say about these comics, and other topics on his mind. While you're there, pause to admire his latest Bizarro Sunday page, which is always a thing of beauty and hilarity.

The People Want to Know

Regular Bizarro reader Danielle A asks:

Is it harder to draw for a vertical or horizontal publication?

I don’t  think either format is inherently harder to draw for, if a comic is specifically designed for one or the other. However, it's almost impossible to draw a gag that will work in both formats without significant tweaking. The process of switching from one to the other is where the difficulties lie. I always compose my sketches in a vertical panel, but I try to keep in mind that it'll eventually have to be fit into a widescreen strip.

If you've ever wondered about the process of making Bizarro, or anything else, send your queries to me at You never know; it may turn up here on the blog. 

Bonus Track

Bob Dylan
"Subterranean Homesick Blues"
From Bringing It All Back Home
Columbia Records, 1965

One of my favorite Dylan numbers, which seemed to go well with our current comics.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Spanish Acquisition

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

I hope you all survived Friday the Thirteenth. It's the only one this year, so even if it is unlucky, we're good until January.

Bizarro blog readers occasionally ask why I only post the Monday through Saturday comics here, while my partner in humor, Dan Piraro, shares the entire week on his weekly blog posts.

I have the pleasure of reading Dan's Sunday pages when they appear on Sunday, the same time as everyone else. My posts are published on Saturday morning, with discussion of six comics I've been familiar with for months before they're printed. I prefer to have time to consider my commentary, rather than throwing out an opinion on something I'm seeing for the first time. 

Also, Dan's art is always so spectacular that mine pales in comparison.

Joking aside, I recommend visiting both blogs for the unique content each has to offer. And I'm happy to enjoy the Sunday Bizarro as a fan and reader.

I hope that clears up the question, and I appreciate having the chance to talk about it here.

This week's pipe pic is a sketchbook page from 2011.

The subject is Bertel Bruun (1937-2011), coauthor of the classic guidebook, Birds of North America. I sometimes warm up by sketching a photo from the newspaper. This was based on the image accompanying Bruun's obituary in The New York Times.

I might see if our local library has a copy of Birds of North America. Perhaps I'll find inspiration for varying the Inverted Bird secret symbol.

Let's see how many birds appear in this week's Bizarro comics, or at least the Monday through Saturday panels.

Castaways on an island without even a single palm tree can be particularly cranky and territorial.
As I review these panels, I find this one to be the least satisfactory. I'd been toying for a while with the words "silverfish" and "goldfish," and trying to work them into... something. The words are constructed similarly, but the animals they name are very different from each other. An early sketch referenced gold, silver, and bronze Olympic medals, but didn't gel as a gag.
Scale is a major problem with this sketch. A silverfish would be much tinier next to even the smallest goldfish. Readers would have to make a mental leap to recognize the goldfish and silverfish, and then see a connection to the nonexistent "bronzefish," finally relating it to Olympic medals. It's too convoluted and too exhausting to be funny.
The published panel might have been improved if the dialog read, "If not for the great coaches who believed in me, I'd still be a silverfish." That moves the payoff word to the end of the sentence, but it sounds stilted. Let's just say I won't submit this one for any awards.
Possibly the next evolutionary step for this species.
When I wrote this back in January, I didn't know that by the time it was published, our country would be spiraling toward becoming a repressive,  ultra-orthodox theocracy. 
Also, I wish I'd drawn the self-satisfied corporate bro to look like Elon Musk.
I'm curious about experiencing an isolation tank, but terrified that this is how it would go for me. When things are too quiet, those self-critical voices can really shout.
We ended the week with a pun, and an excuse to draw three bagpipes, being played with varying degrees of incorrectness. As I've stated before, I have no beef with bagpipes, banjos, accordions, or any other musical instrument, but certain ones are generally considered to be annoying or unpleasant, so they're rich fodder for humor.
As it turns out, I neglected the Inverted Bird this week. I'll try to pay it more attention in the future, although it's tough to compete with the Flying Saucer of Possibility.

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North. Thanks for stopping by to see what I've been up to. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog to check out his comments and his latest glorious Sunday page. I do it every week myself!

If you crave even more words, with different pictures, sign up for my weekly newsletter. It's free, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Bonus Track

Tom Lehrer: The Vatican Rag
Live in Copenhagen, 1967

Saturday, May 07, 2022

Talking Comics

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

On Sunday, we marked the May Day holiday as we always do, with a quiet meal prepared at home and a viewing of The Wicker Man, one of our a favorite films. I of course refer to the 1973 British movie, directed by Robin Hardy, not the 2006 American remake. We're snobbish about our folk horror around here.

Our opening photo for this entry is a handsome Meerschaum tobacco pipe, with a bowl carved in the form of a human skull being held in a slightly oversized hand. It's housed at London's Science Museum.

Bizarro reader Joe S recently suggested it as a pipe pic for the blog, but I also had the exact same image in a folder of pipe pictures on my computer dated March 2021. I can't remember if I found it on my own, or if someone alerted me to it. If you brought this to my attention a year ago, please drop me a note so I can acknowledge you on the blog. 

A tip of the Wayno porkpie to Joe S, and possibly someone else.

On Thursday, my interview on The New Yorker Caption Contest Podcast was appeared on the info superhighway. I took a deep breath and a strong drink before listening to it. I thought it turned out all right, so I'm comfortable sharing it. If you're not a Spotify fan, it's also on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and probably other platforms I'm not aware of.

Clockwise from top right:
Beth Lawler, Vin Coca, Paul Nesja, your cartoonist

During the discussion, Paul Nesja mentioned one of his favorite Bizarro cartoons, which turned out to be one that somebody had copied and altered. He later told me that that embarrassed him, but it made me consider the possibility that even someone who knows cartoons well might unknowingly share one that's been tampered with. I took it as a lesson to give people the benefit of the doubt when I see something like that in the future. I'll still report the image to have it removed, but I won't (necessarily) assume the person who posted it had malicious intent.

Here's our latest batch of official, unaltered Bizarro comics for your review and entertainment.

We began the week with our spin on a popular legend about a historical figure.

My first stab at the idea showed Ponce de LeĆ³n in the hallway of an elementary school.

The dialog was going to be: Behold, the less-impressive-than-anticipated Fountain of Youth

I decided it might be funnier to have a tiny explorer searching for a fountain scaled to his height, and worked up a few more sketches, eventually arriving at the final staging and text.

Revision 1

Revision 2

Final Sketch

Tuesday's panel indulged my fondness for using inanimate objects as comic protagonists without anthropomorphizing them. The caption is the latest example of adjacent metathesis as the basis of a joke.

The strip format required readers to rotate their newspapers ninety degrees clockwise, but here on the blog, we do the work for you.

Many people occasionally experience impostor syndrome, an extreme form of self-doubt. I repurposed the term for a gag, but here it might more accurately be called "willful impostor syndrome." The patient was clearly dedicated to the role, even shaving the top of his head.

Every organization has its own culture.
On the planet Krypton, the -El family were sophisticated designers, but had to dumb it down for Earthlings.

The beta test version of the barrow called for additional work, not unlike the gag itself. I originally drew this as a more static image.

Dan Piraro and I had several deep discussions as we tried to decide which version of the comic worked better. I like them both, but think that the published cartoon with furrows in the ground conveys the impracticality of the barrow without a wheel. Seeing them together again, I could probably be swayed either way.

That's our week in comics. Drop by again next Saturday for more of this kind of stuff. Don't forget to check out Dan's blog for his commentary, along with another glorious Bizarro Sunday page.

I also publish a weekly email newsletter to announce blog updates. Each newsletter includes a sneak preview of an upcoming comic, and something excavated from my illustration archives. It's free, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Bonus Track

Lesley Gore delivering a message to 2022 from 1964.