Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy Motoring

Here's my last Bizarro contribution for 2012, a wistful look at a road trip as a metaphor for life:
There's not much to it pictorially, though Dan Piraro, the brains behind Bizarro, managed to include a few bits of visual interest as compared to my submission sketch. The birds perched on the sign are a neat touch, and I like the composition better with the railing and underpass anchoring it.

The idea for this gag occurred to me while on a drive from Pittsburgh to Maryland earlier this year, although there were no missed exits, or any other mishaps. The first scribbled line in my sketchbook used the term "Existential Highway," which felt a little lofty, almost poetic--and the point of the sign is to bring the driver back down to earth. "Turnpike" is a satisfyingly mundane term, very utilitarian. It also has that hard vowel at the end, and, when pronounced (aloud or in the mind) its guttural sound works better that the breathier "highway."

I have no deep explanation or analysis to offer for this one, except perhaps to say that sometimes it's good to slow down and wander away from your planned route.

Please feel free to plow through all of my previous collaborations with the talented and generous Mister Piraro, and watch for new gags in January. As of today, there are three in the pipeline. They'll pop up on January 3rd, the 9th, and the 16th.

Speaking of Dan, I highly recommend reading his very entertaining blog, which often includes amusing insights into his creative process. You might be seeing Dan on TV sometime in the future as well!

Thanks to everyone who's followed along and offered encouragement, comments and critiques throughout the year. 2012 has been busy, productive, educational and rewarding, and it didn't end on December 21st! 

I wish all of you a New Year of health, prosperity and peace.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Versatile Vestment

As we plow through the season of gift-giving insanity, here's a shopping tip in the form of today's Bizarro cartoon.
For comparison, here's the sketch I submitted to Bizarro's creator, Dan Piraro.
The joke is a little on the meta side, with a couple of cartoonists (Dan and myself) commenting on one of our standard props: the striped jersey. Depending on a few other visual cues, this article of clothing is indeed routinely employed to depict pirates, mimes, burglars and French people. We've all used it, and will probably continue to do so as long as cartoons are drawn.

We'll squeeze in one final collaboration this year, with many more in store for 2013 (assuming the Mayans are wrong).

Please feel free to review all of our previous joint efforts, which are conveniently archived in this blog's Bizarro Warehouse.

Speaking of blogs, you ought to check out Dan's very informative Bizarro Blog, where he offers plenty of insight into his creative process, along with amusing and unexpected links.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Devil Made Me Do It!

Here's my latest collaboration with Bizarro's Grand Poobah, Dan Piraro.
Dan's published art employs a more interesting camera angle than my submission sketch, while preserving the original text.
The inspiration for this gag is, of course, the rampant practice of Grammy winners and football players thanking god for their victories, along with crackpot candidates who blame/credit a deity for their decision to run for office. 

During the recent presidential campaign, the number of politicians hearing voices in their heads seemed to reach an all-time high. Here are a few of the supposedly chosen ones, ripped from the pages of a cartoonist's sketchbook:
Who, little old me?
"God said, 'Not yet, Herman. Not yet.
I've got something else for you to do."

"We have prayed a lot about this decision, and we believe
with all our hearts that this is what God wants."
I'll have two more gags pop up in Bizarro before the end of 2012, but it's not too early to thank you for reading and commenting throughout the year. 

More big laffs are coming your way in 2013.

Pop Culture Postscript: The title of today's post is one of many catchphrases popularized by Flip Wilson in the early 1970s. In a 1973 cover story, Time Magazine called Wilson "TV's first black superstar."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Helloooo, Kitty!

Your Humble Cartoonist/Blogger was a bit surprised when today's Bizarro was accepted for publication. It's naughtier than most of what appears on the funny pages, although in a gentle sort of way. Still, it could cause some discomfort for parents whose offspring ask for an explanation of the joke, but it's time probably time you had that chat anyway. You might even learn something.
Dan Piraro's finished art is similar to my concept sketch, with a few tweaks. In a rare role reversal, my sketch includes background elements that Dan cleared away, to very good effect. I violated my own rule about eliminating unnecessary details, and am very happy with the final version. I particularly enjoyed the satisfied expression on Dan's fatter cat, and the sex kitten's look of utter indifference.
The most difficult part of composing this blog post was selecting a title that wasn't extremely vulgar. Captioning the cartoon took some time for the same reason. Most of my initial attempts were neither subtle nor particularly funny. The 900 number, though, works rather nicely. Also, there's no danger of this being an actual number, since "feline" corresponds to six digits, not the seven required for US phone lines. So, I'm secure in the knowledge that no innocent readers will incur "premium rate" fares if they try dialing it. 

My previous comical collaborations with Bizarro's Grand Poobah, Dan Piraro can be viewed in this blog's Bizarro Archive.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Famous for 15 Seconds

I'm running a few days behind on this Bizarro post, but happily so. The last couple of weeks have been loaded up with my current artist's residency at Pittsburgh's Manchester Craftsmen's Guild. I'll post about that sometime soon.

Meanwhile, here's my latest collaboration with the mighty Dan Piraro, from Wednesday, November 14.
The cartoon comments on musical snobbery, of which I have been guilty in my life. I hope that's not the case anymore, but certainly in adolescence many of us exhibited this type of one-upmanship, claiming to have been in on something before everybody else.

If that still goes on today , it happens within a much shorter time frame, with many musical careers now being outlived by the average fruit fly.

Here's the sketch as submitted to Mister P.
Dan flopped the composition horizontally, and while my characters are relatively fresh-faced teens, he shows them as jaded hipsters. Also, in Dan's version, the long-time fan goes way back with the band, an even earlier adopter than in the sketch version.

Dan talks about this panel, and the poster on the wall, in his always-entertaining blog. He also included a very rare photo of some of his regular gag writers, taken when some of us paid a friendly visit to Bizarro Global HQ.

Our next joint effort, which I can't wait to share, will pop up on November 29. Until then, please enjoy our previous laffs, which are all available in the Piraro/Wayno warehouse, within this very blog.

Thanks for following and commenting.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Short Back & Sides

Today's Bizarro is a bit of a breakthrough: the first completely wordless gag I've  published.
The overall composition of my sketch made it to the final version, with several small but very effective changes by Bizarro's creator, Dan Piraro.
Notably, Dan corrected my inversion of the classic crop circle look, where the design is made of flattened vegetation (or in our case, shorn locks). He also simplified the pattern so it's recognizable as a crop circle at tiny scale of today's newspaper comics. 

Electric shears make more sense than scissors, though perhaps I had old world (other-world?) craftsmanship in mind. Finally, Dan does a much more expressive job of showing the awkward angle required for our man to view his new 'do, and adds a look of consternation to his face.

Since this gag depends solely on the picture, with no supporting text, I spent more time than usual tuning up the sketch in order to sell it. I scrapped my first attempt at drawing the customer's head, and digitally pasted in the one shown above. I still like my barber's neckwear. In fact I have a habit of drawing bow ties on characters whenever possible.

If you enjoyed today's collaboration with Mister Piraro, please feel free to scan through our previous joint appearances, which are archived for your reading pleasure.

Today's bonus essay question: Does a wordless gag have a "writer?"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Doping Scandal

Today's Bizarro exposes an incompetent would-be cheater who provides a pun I haven't encountered in a cartoon (although there is a font with this name!)
My submission sketch provided suggestions for Bizarro mastermind Dan Piraro to improve upon, which he did, handily.
The final version is similar, although the fellow athlete was replaced with an angry coach (from sports powerhouse Pie State), and the composition was flipped horizontally. By switching the characters' positions, Dan put the ballooned-up fellow to the right of the panel. He likes to place the punchline (verbal or visual) to the right side of the panel, as the eyes of (western) readers tend to travel diagonally from top left to bottom right when viewing a panel. It delays the payoff just a bit, and is an effective rule of thumb, which I completely forgot when throwing this together.

Please view all of our previous collaborations here, and stay tuned for more cartoon laffs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Senza Zucchero, per favore!

Note: While cleaning up some disk space, I found this rant, which I wrote in 2009. I usually hang at a different coffee shop these days, so I'm not subjected to this particular irritant as much as I once was, but my opinion hasn't changed since then. ~W

I'm of Italian descent. I drink espresso every morning. I enjoy Italian food and culture, and embrace and cherish my heritage.

But I have a confession to make. 

I can't stand Zucchero.

For those who haven't heard of Zucchero, he's an Italian rock singer, and is probably the country's most popular performer. Everyone I hang out with at the coffee shop is crazy about him, and most mornings they've got one of his discs on the sound system. Good friends with high musical standards continually tell me I should give his music another listen.

I tried. I really tried. 

After several excruciating sessions with a "best-of" collection, I'm left with the same impression I've had all along: that this bozo's music is nothing more than middle-of-the-road "classic rock," loaded with corny duets (Sting, Pavarotti, Clapton, Elton John, etc.) and Journeyesque Boltonisms (or, if you prefer, Boltonesque Journeyisms).

The guy's so incredibly hammy that "Prosciutto" would have been a more appropriate stage name.
In fact, if Zucchero were an English-language performer, I'd wager that most of the rabid Italophiles who worship at his chest-beating altar wouldn't pay him any attention. He gets an undeserved pass simply because of his nationality.

Anything that's the most popular in its category merits of an extra measure of skepticism, and Zucchero is no exception. I can't get behind anyone who covers "You Are So Beautiful" in earnest. It's a bit too "Italian Idol" for me.

I'm sorry, mi amici, but I still say that zucchero belongs in my espresso, not my iPod.

Friday, October 19, 2012

GI, GI, Ohhhhh

It's been some time since I've collaborated with Hilary Price, the cartoonist behind Rhymes With Orange, and it's a pleasure to have a new gag appear in her comic.

It's a simple, direct joke, which I like a lot, and is an example of what I refer to as a Tufnel (wringing a joke out of a familiar phrase by changing a number or letter by an increment or two).

Hilary based her comic on this (extremely) rough submission sketch:
Her revised dialog is a nice refinement. The first line, "Thankfully, it hasn't progressed." neatly sets up the idea that before you contract e. coli, it has to go through the a, b, c, and d stages. Bravo!

Earlier this year, I filled in as Hilary's guest cartoonist, allowing her to take some time off, and have written a few other jokes she liked enough to include in RWO. All of these can be viewed here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Birthday Bug

Here's a Bizarro cartoon depicting an awkward social situation we've all experienced: receiving a repulsive gift from a well-meaning family member.
Bizarro CEO Dan Piraro worked his usual magic, transforming my rough drawing into a sparkling cartoon gem. Although the submission was patched together from a sketchbook page and digitally finished, it's actually not too bad.
This idea had been percolating for some time before the final text for the caption box arose. My first thumbnails documenting the idea definitely needed refinement.
After stewing on it for a couple of weeks and discarding several variations, I finally came up with the phrase "dung beetle-in-law," which does a nice job of describing the characters' relationship in an unexpected way, mostly as subtext.

Next Friday, one of my new gags will appear in Hilary Price's Rhymes With Orange, and after that, more Bizarro yuks are on the way.

My previous collaborations with Dan P can be viewed here. Dan's own Bizarro Blog is highly entertaining, and is of course, highly recommended.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


In honor of Halloween, here's an old comic based on a childhood memory.

This was originally published in 1991.

Read on—if you dare!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bargains Galore!

I've been digging through a lot of my old files in preparation for an upcoming exhibit of illustration and cartoon art. Among a folder of tear sheets was the inside cover from the first issue of Hyena, an anthology edited by Mark Martin. One of Mark's recurring creations was the Lillian Spencer Drake Catalog of Values, which featured the work of dozens of artists. Mark self-published an LSD Catalog in 1988, and revived the concept in 1991 for Hyena.

Following are my contributions to the 1991 Catalog.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Armageddon Savings Time

Today's collaboration with comics master Dan Piraro offers a possible excuse for Harold Camping's failed predictions.
Here's the scribble I submitted for Dan's consideration:
This is an example of the very loose roughs I scrawl in my sketchbook to get an idea on paper before I forget it. Normally I'll follow with a tighter sketch to try and sell the gag. I don't remember why I showed Dan this raw doodle, other than the fact that I hate to draw horses.

The finished cartoon depicts the supposed color of each rider's horse. Death is said to ride a pale (or green) horse, Famine a black one, and War rides a red steed. No amount of research is spared for Bizarro's discerning readers! Now you know why we both use the phrase "attention to detail" in our résumés.

Many additional hilarious—and sometimes educational—cartoons are in the works for your enjoyment and/or edification. The next one will drop in about three weeks, and represents a return to lowbrow form. Meanwhile, you are encouraged to view our "priors" in this blog's Bizarro archive.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Wonderful World of Coolant

Today's Bizarro provides wholesome entertainment for the kiddies.
The idea for this cartoon arose during a visit with the family late last year. Someone had mentioned how excited their children were about seeing Disney on Ice, to which I responded, "Isn't that a little gruesome for young kids?"

It's a very straightforward gag, based on a literal interpretation of a familiar phrase. The name of the show has been repeated so many times in print and TV ads—not to mention by children hounding their parents for tickets—that people no longer notice what the individual words are saying. Attaching a different meaning to (or reminding the reader of the meaning of) an everyday phrase provides a little jolt of surprise and recognition that works rather well as a cartoon.

The joke has additional resonance for those familiar with the persistent urban legend claiming that Walt Disney (1901-1966) had a provision in his will to be cryogenically preserved after his death, to be revived in a medically-advanced future. In fact, the beloved creator of a vast entertainment juggernaut was cremated, like a regular old mortal.

My submission sketch is a little rougher than usual, with a simple eye-level presentation. Dan Piraro, the genius behind Bizarro, not only restaged the scene with an improved camera angle, but also rewrote the dialog.
Both the sketch and the finished version reflect Dan's (and my own) preference for deadpan reactions to weird situations. In each version of this panel, the adult expresses mild surprise or disappointment in a matter-of-fact tone, which is much funnier than if they'd been shown recoiling in horror.

If you enjoyed today's chilly shot of humor, perhaps you'd like to browse through the previous funnies I've done in collaboration with the mighty Piraro.

Our next joint effort will appear in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Talk That Talk

Beer and Candy

Today's Bizarro takes a peek inside a watering hole frequented by advertising characters.
Obviously, the sugary sea captain and the aristocratic legume have heard this one a few too many times, but the old codger with the Mexican beer in hand just won't give up on it. Most of us have worked with (or are related to) someone who repeats the same tired joke at every opportunity, and can sympathize with to the eye-rolling patrons of this particular tavern.

My submission sketch was fairly rough, but conveyed the idea. I'd originally included Elsie the Borden cow, but she was replaced by the more recognizable Mister Peanut. Maybe it was boys' night out.

In the sketch, the marshmallow man's perturbed face is partly visible, but Bizarro CEO Dan Piraro chose to depict just the back of his head, which does a better job of showing that this comment has been repeated so many times that anger has given way to indifference and resignation.

About a third of the people who previewed this cartoon didn't get it at all. This indicates that they probably don't waste a lot of time watching television, particularly the commercials, which speaks well of them.

The gag is based on "The Most Interesting Man in the World," an advertising character created to sell Dos Equis beer, portrayed by a guy named Jonathan Goldsmith. Goldsmith is fairly interesting in his own right. One of the character's taglines is "Stay thirsty, my friend." Dos Equis was a low-profile regional brand that has become very popular because of these "most interesting" commercials.

The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man (much to my surprise) was created by the writers of the 1984 film "Ghostbusters," and was not a real consumer product. In 2010, Omni Consumer Products, a company that "defictionalizes" made-up products, began marketing actual edible marshmallows under the formerly-fake Stay-Puft brand.

So, if you didn't get the joke, you're probably an educated person of taste, whose head isn't filled with trash-culture detritus, and for that I commend you.

My next joint effort with Dan Piraro will appear on September 6, and might anger some fans/worshipers of a certain "magical" kiddie-entertainment empire. Stay tuned for that, and in the meantime, help yourself to my previous collaborations with the multi-talented Mister P.

Please enjoy these cartoons responsibly. And stay risible, my friends.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Peppermint Heimlich

Today's Bizarro comments on the grotesqueness of a popular candy.
I've always found Pez candy dispensers to be slightly disturbing. In order to eat the candy, you yank back on a cute cartoon character's head, and pull the brick-shaped confection from its gaping neck-hole. Yummy.

This cartoon is an example of the type of joke that simply points out a small truth that everyone ignores, or no longer notices. Surely the first child given a Pez dispenser must have run screaming when an odd foreign object popped out from beneath Santa's nearly-severed head.

I was very pleased to see that Dan Piraro's finished art duplicated my sketch so closely, although there's nothing in the frame besides the two characters and the word balloon, so there wasn't much that I could have misplaced.
Stay tuned for more new Bizarro gags, and if you have time to kill, please enjoy our previous 100 (!) collaborations in this blog's archive.

Very soon I'll officially announce a Winter exhibit of my illustration and cartoon art, along with a "lecture" (or some sort of public speaking event), at a prestigious educational and cultural institution here in Pittsburgh.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Will Work for Pizza

After many production delays, the first few pallets of boxes have arrived at A'Pizza Badamo, one of several great pizzerias in my area.

Wayno, the box, Anthony Badamo
Anthony Badamo opened his small shop two years ago, in the space previously occupied by Caruso’s, a neighborhood tradition for 30 years. Anthony's nonna sometimes supplies homemade cookies, which sell out quickly, and Anthony himself is usually behind the counter fielding takeout orders from working parents, employees of local businesses, and groups of schoolkids. 

The shop has a few tables, and a BYOB policy, and is a regular gathering place for local musicians, restaurateurs, and artists.

In addition to the boxes, we've put his friendly mug on menus, business cards, t-shirts, posters and banners.

Anthony's menu also now features "The Wayno," a pie that includes fresh mozzarella, anchovies, tomatoes, garlic and other seasonings. Anthony and I experimented for some time to match the sweet smoothness of the cheese with the acidity of tomatoes and the salty punch of anchovies.

The pizza box design was my first experience working in water-based ink on cardboard, and we're pretty happy with the results. I was delighted when the printer informed me that they had an ink color called "standard pizza box red."

Weapons of Self Destruction (Number 100 in a Series)

Today's macabre offering marks my one hundredth (!) appearance in Dan Piraro's aptly-titled daily comic, Bizarro.
The layout in my submission sketch is similar to the final product, although Dan seized the opportunity to add a stick of dynamite (one of his recurring secret symbols) to the female character's instruments of mayhem. He also shifted the "camera angle" a few degrees. I tend to draw my panels from a very straightforward point of view, while Dan usually adds visual interest by altering the perspective.
There's a long, ongoing tradition of cartoonists using the Grim Reaper as inspiration for a gag. This one is based on the common phrase "flirting with death" as a description of risky behavior. The combination of cigarettes, alcohol, firearms, knives, drugs and dynamite certainly qualifies.

A few months earlier, I drew a nearly identical sketch, with the woman speaking.
This version works, too. It's a little subtler, and relies on the character's body language and expression to establish the mood and expectation. The "flirting" version has the benefit of adding the props to reinforce the joke. This earlier drawing clearly shows the influence of Virgil "VIP" Partch.
Virgil Franklin Partch (1916-1984)
As mentioned above, the Grim Reaper is a staple of gag cartoons, and some of my earlier Bizarro collaborations have also featured the old Pale Rider:
January 31, 2012
August 19, 2011
June 29, 2011
It's a true pleasure, as well as an invaluable learning experience, to be working with Dan Piraro. We're already getting started on the next hundred collaborations.

If you have some time to kill, feel free to peruse the previous fruits of our combined psyches in this blog's archive

Thanks for reading and commenting.

My eternal gratitude goes to all-around prince Dan for allowing me to occasionally shake off a dusting of cold, harsh reality and stick my head into Bizarro's Rectangle of Strangeness.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Altogether Ooky

Today's Bizarro comic features a musical number you'll never see, even if you're Off-Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway:
Although I usually avoid listening to friends' ideas for comics—I have plenty of my own waiting to find homes—this one, described by mad genius Jesse Schell grabbed my attention.

The cartoon work of Charles Addams served as an early introduction to darkness in humor, and as an oddball child, I read and re-read crumbling Pocket Books reprints of his cartoons. These disturbing and hilarious books predated my introductions to the early MAD paperbacks, the underground comix of the late 1960s, and, later, the groundbreaking National Lampoon.

Dan Piraro's published art follows my sketchbook version pretty closely, and we both paid our respects to Addams's style in our own ways.
This one was particularly satisfying to color. A web search for covers of Addams books, which often featured lovely watercolor illustrations, provided color guidance, and we tried to be as faithful as possible.

Thanks again to Jesse Schell for convincing me to go against my better judgment and draw a comic based on a friend's idea. Occasionally, you have to break you own rules, especially when the idea comes from someone whose intelligence is at times frightening.

If you haven't seen my previous collaborations with Dan Piraro in his daily panel, feel free to wade through the archive.