Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Scenic Route

Greetings from Bizarro Studios North, where the sun is shining while the temperatures fluctuate wildly.

Once again the blog post begins with a pipe pic, and this one's a beauty. It's a scan of an original drawing by underground comix great Skip Williamson (1944-2017), provided by longtime friend of Bizarro Hank Edenborn. It was made to illustrate a Mark Twain manuscript entitled An Encounter with an Interviewer. Williamson shows Twain being interviewed by his character Snappy Sammy Smoot, who is mostly obscured by smoke.

Thanks to Hank for sharing this wonderful piece. Be sure to click on the image for a closer look at Skip Williamson's gorgeous art.

In non-comics news, this week my (fully-vaccinated) musical trio, The Red Beans & Rice Combo had our first practice session in over fourteen months. We felt a bit rusty after our long hiatus, but were overjoyed to be making music together again.

Our rehearsals always provided a perfect mid-week break for your cartoonist, and I'm thrilled to start them up again. After playing music with these guys, I return to the drawing board with renewed energy.

Dave Klug, Wayno, Tom Roberts
Double Dog Studios, Carnegie PA

Until I saw this photo, I didn't realize that I was the "fun-size" member of the band.

Speaking of the drawing board, let's see what fell from its well-worn surface this week.

Among the many advantages of working from home is avoiding that one colleague's insufferable recounting of the weekend's exploits. Unless of course you're that insufferable colleague.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov composed "Flight of the Bumblebee" to evoke the rapidly changing flight patterns of bumblebees, which caused me to wonder why a direct path between two points is referred to as a "beeline."

While pondering that apian paradox, I imagined pages of sheet music following an equally complicated route from beginning to end.

The gag was ideally suited to the alternate strip layout.

This makes as much sense as any number of crackpot conspiracy theories making the rounds.

A few months ago, I scribbled a note in my sketchbook about Frankenstein's monster having a screw-top lid to provide easy access for tweaking or replacing its brain. When I sketched out the gag, it became an old-fashioned bottle cap, mainly because I loved the idea of drawing a giant bottle opener.

A few readers correctly noted that the doctor's assistant was modeled after Charles Addams's Uncle Fester character. Many others insisted that my Dr. Frankenstein resembles the 1960s animated cartoon character Clyde Crashcup.

I didn't have him in mind, but there certainly is a resemblance, and I remember seeing the Clyde Crashcup shorts on The Alvin Show when I was a kid. His image might well have been lurking in my head for all these years, looking for an opportunity to show itself.

On Friday we offered our take on a favorite cartoon trope: a fish growing legs and emerging from the water. I'm always up for an excuse to draw a character with a tuxedo and martini, particularly a non-human.

Saturday's panel is a rare example of a clean joke about a talking bird. This one sent me on a web search for reference photos of parakeets.

Thanks for visiting. Please drop by next Saturday for another stack o' laffs. And be sure to check out Dan Piraro's blog for his take on these cartoons, along with another spectacular Bizarro Sunday page. Last Sunday's Bizarro was a particularly funny gag, and the art was miles beyond anything else on the funny pages. 

I'm so glad Dan is my partner and not my competition.

Bonus Tracks

Monday's comic made me think of the 1963 instrumental hit, "Wild Weekend," by the Rockin' Rebels. I'd like to share two cover versions of this tune.

The first one is from Roxy Music member Andy Mackay's 1974 LP, In Search of Eddie Riff. It's a fairly straightforward cover, and sounds like a higher fidelity take of the Rockin' Rebels' original.

His album also includes a nifty version of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries."

Next up is a live performance by NRBQ, with vocals. This take was recorded in 1989, and features my favorite lineup of the band. More than a dozen members played with them over the years. At this time, the quartet consisted of Terry Adams (piano, vocals), "Big Al" Anderson (guitar, vocals), Joey Spampinato (bass, vocals), and Tommy Ardolino (drums).

As a side note, Joey Spampinato was featured in the Chuck Berry concert film Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll. None other than Keith Richards was blown away by his musicianship.

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Saturday, May 08, 2021

Look Ma, No Pants

Welcome back to the blog, Jazz Pickles, and happy Mother's Day to the moms among you. Whether your kids are human or another species, we salute you.

This week's pipe pic is a news clipping from 1987, when Mr. Potato Head decided to quit smoking in a public ceremony alongside Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.

We're not smokers here at Bizarro Studios North. The habit we can't kick is babbling about our newest cartoons every Saturday. Here's this week's download.

 
I recently received a press release that mentioned an author putting the finishing touches on a new book. At first, I thought it said touchés. The accent mark turned out to be a speck of dust on the screen, but I made note of the accidental pun and built a gag around it.
 

My latest indulgence in the form of wordplay I refer to as a streptonym. I'll continue to flog this coinage until it makes its way into a dictionary.

If you're getting married on Cinco de Mayo, a taco truck is the perfect caterer. I'm happy to encounter a good taco truck on any occasion. Five years ago, we were promised one on every corner, and we're still waiting.

On Thursday, I made fun of something I dislike by doing that very thing. I find the ubiquitous gags referencing Schrödinger's cat to be self-consciously clever, if not self-congratulatory. And yet, here I am doing one myself. Cartoonists are seldom rational or consistent.

Still, I promise never to tread this turf again.

Friday's comic was a bit of silliness in support of a serious cause. I encourage each of you to consider donating to a clothing charity in your area. For my hometown friends, I'm recommending Dress for Success Pittsburgh, whose mission is to provide a network of support, professional attire and development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

That's no joke.

I'm grateful every day for having the job of creating the daily Bizarro comics. Over the years I've worked in a variety  of industrial and corporate settings, and each one had its share of exasperating microbureaucrats. The text in today's gag is entirely believable.

That concludes the latest pile of words and pictures from your obedient cartoonist. Pop by again next week for more of the same. And please visit Dan Piraro's blog for his latest musings and a brand new Bizarro Sunday page. 

Bonus Track

"Something for Cat"
the Henry Mancini Orchestra
from the Breakfast at Tiffany's soundtrack



Saturday, May 01, 2021

Say How Do

It's May Day, which means we'll break out our DVD of The Wicker Man, director Robin Hardy's 1973 folk-horror film starring Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, and the subject of this week's pipe pic, the late Sir Christopher Lee.

This distinguished photo is from a 1979 karate/kickboxing exploitation film titled Jaguar Lives!, in which Lee played a criminal kingpin. I've never seen this one, in part because I generally don't trust a film with an exclamation point in its title. However, I have seen The Wicker Man dozens of times, and never fail to enjoy it.

Lee's performance as Lord Summerisle is widely considered to be his best ever. The film is a sexy, smart, suspenseful tale of paganism and ritual sacrifice on a remote island. Similar territory was explored more recently in the 2019 Swedish film Midsommar, and Mayday, a 2013 British TV series. Both are worth seeing, but The Wicker Man is the undisputed champion on this genre. Paul Giovanni's music in an integral part of the film, with Giovanni and members of his band Magnet appearing in several scenes.

Here's hoping the gods find your May Day sacrifice to be acceptable to, and that your crops flourish.

Now, let's review this week's crop of Bizarro cartoons.

Speculative historians tell us that this method of tracking down criminals is the origin of the term "You're busted."

This clown is pumped, and has a overinflated ego.

A reference to the legend of Robert Johnson's musical education, and a tribute to the skill of Old Scratch's tailor, who added a fly in the back for comfort.

As more citizens are vaccinated and travel picks up, let's pause for a moment in respect to all employees of the hospitality industry, and all they must endure. When we all emerge from our homes, may we all be grateful for the folks who help to make travel and dining enjoyable, and may we all tip generously.

There's a mysterious ashy residue in the oven, too.

The key to a healthy diet is platelet control.

Thanks, as always, for checking in here at the old Waynoblog. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog to see what he has to say about these cartoons, and to admire his always-spectacular Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

"Willow's Song," from The Wicker Man

The scene that features this song is definitely NSFW.






Saturday, April 24, 2021

Innocent Until Proven Goofy

Hello again from scenic Hollywood Gardens, PA. Before we jump into our review of the latest Bizarro dailies, here's this week's Pipe Pic, featuring comic genius Harvey Kurtzman.

 
Among Kurtzman's many achievements, he was the founding editor, and the main writer for the first 28 issues of MAD. He's responsible for inspiring generations of wisenheimer cartoonists. This image was his author photo from the seventh issue of Kurtzman's post-MAD publication, Help!
 

After posting last week's blog entry, I doodled the final page in my most recent sketchbook. I then started a new one with my usual ritual: numbering the pages with a rubber stamp, putting a "please return" notice on the first sheet, and attaching a pocket of pens and pencils to the front cover. I've filled an average of one sketchbook per year over the past three decades.


 
These books will never be exhibited as works of art, or reprinted for collectors to study. They're just part of my daily work routine, serving as repositories for words, phrases and images that might lead to finished cartoons. I carry one with me just about everywhere, to capture any potential gag ideas. My colleague Hilary Price (Rhymes with Orange) refers to these potential comic concepts as "kernels," an apt descriptor.

Most of their pages would be meaningless to anyone else, but these volumes provide a comforting sense that I've documented a few unformed ideas, and will have a starting point when it's time to write a new batch of gags. They're this cartoonist's security blankets.


With that digression out of the way, let's review this week's comics.

 

At this point, she's just flapping it in.


A reflection on perspective, acceptance, and letting go.

 

 
I wonder if this may have been a childhood nickname. 
 
 
The gang's other members are Dopey and Daffy, animated mugs who were also saddled with unfortunate names. A friend commented that I made the perp look "simultaneously clueless and sinister." That may be, but I simply tried to draw the character as accurately as I could. Now those two qualities are all I can think of when looking at him.

Veterinary psychologists have found that this situation is a common feline dream. Unlike humans who have nightmares about being in social situations without their pants, cats experience no anxiety or embarrassment upon awakening.

I recently read an article about the artist Ai Weiwei, discussing the joy he gets from being around his cats. He observed:
I’ve learned so much from animals. It’s important to be around another species that has a completely different set of instincts and intuitions. Humans are so rational. We are defined by our knowledge, and that blocks our emotions and understanding of ourselves. But anyone who opens their mind or heart to cats can experience something that can’t be found in human society. They teach you that you can have a happy life without knowing anything at all. They take care of themselves, and they make their own fun. To be an individual, to be self-content — those are nice qualities for a life.

We can all learn from our feline companions.

The monster's not a bad sort, he's just frustrated about the way his warmest sweaters end up all stretched out.

That covers it for another Bizarro week, folks. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's weekly blog for his thoughts on these gags and other, more weighty matters. While you're there, you can also admire his latest Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track (with Commentary)

I've shared musical selections by the Bonzo Dog Band several times in the past. They were a significant influence on my misfit teenage psyche, and I still listen to their records today.
 
Courtesy of the Bizarro Studios North vinyl archives
 
I recently rediscovered a folder of music columns I wrote in the late twentieth century. Unsurprisingly, one was an appreciation of a Bonzos record. My words follow the video link below.
 


Passport to Absurdity:

The Bonzo Dog Band’s The Intro and the Outro

 

"Hi there, nice to be with you, happy you could stick around, like to introduce Legs Larry Smith, drums." 

 

So begins "The Intro and the Outro," to my mind the quintessential Bonzo Dog Band recording. After naming the seven Bonzos over a vamp that bears a passing resemblance to Duke Ellington’s "C-Jam Blues", Viv Stanshall introduces "Big John Wayne, xylophone" and the proceedings veer into hilariously ludicrous territory.

 

The British blues-rock craze is deftly emasculated with the line "Over there, Eric Clapton, ukulele" followed by a bar of anemic plinking; a daring move given the era’s worship of guitar-gods, but the bit that still cracks me up is "And looking very relaxed, Adolf Hitler on vibes... Nice!"

 

"Intro," from the Bonzos’ debut album, Gorilla, is sort of an audio analogue to the cover photo of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper (coincidentally released the same year, 1967), with the "actual" band members surrounded by contemporary and historical figures of varying degrees of fame. In contrast to the wax museum feel of the Pepper photo, "Intro" is hyperkinetic. I first heard it in the mid-70s, on the double LP, History of the Bonzos, and was so knocked out that I played it several times in succession before listening to the rest of the album. 

 

"Intro" is a powerful and beautiful work, made by enthusiastic young maniacs fresh out of art school, that still sounds original and continues to reveal new joys decades after its creation.

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.


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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.