Saturday, May 26, 2018

My Kid Could Do That

Greetings once again from Bizarro Studios North. It's Saturday morning, which means it's time for a review of the past week's cartoons.

Around my house, we watch a fair amount of British TV. That includes everything from crime series to comedies. We also seem to find plenty of vampiric material, so it's no surprise that some of those elements became commingled in a certain cartoonist's brain.

I spent more time than usual tinkering with the art on this one, specifically the teeth. My intent was to make the characters' fangs recognizable, but not immediately obvious. Ideally, they'd be missed at first, and recognized after reading the caption. A detail like this can be tricky, when considering that the the comic will be read both online and in print, and in two distinct layouts.
The fangs are indeed a little harder to spot in the printed strip layout, so I'm hopeful we got the balance right this time.

Realizing that it's been eight weeks since our last clown gag, we threw one in for Tuesday. I had fun deciding how to depict a clown in civilian duds.

As someone who works with ink every day, and has had an occasional spill, I completely relate to these dedicated craftsmen. I wondered whether people still know what White-Out is, let alone understand the term "illumination" as applied to manuscripts? Since I know that Bizarro readers are literate and informed, I was confident that our audience would get the gag.

After scribbling the phrase "Tunnel of Lunch" in my sketchbook, a few weeks passed before I came up with a usable cartoon. We hope that the commentary on relationships gives it a little more depth than a simple bit of wordplay.

Before completing the art for Friday, we passed along a sketch to our editors at King Features, to make sure they'd be okay with the word "pee." We got the green light, since the gag is funny and it involves dogs. Apparently if the characters were human, the wording might have been an issue, but a cartoon about a person peeing on a hydrant wouldn't have made sense anyway.

Bizarro CEO (Chief Eyeball Officer) Dan Piraro suggested this gag, which made us both chuckle. Cartoonists have a long tradition of poking fun at nonrepresentational art, as exemplified by this lovely Ernie Bushmiller panel.
I'm pretty sure that cartoonists ridiculing fine artists qualifies as "punching up."

Speaking of the refined arts, since I've jumped in to handle the daily comics, Dan has been devoting more time to painting, and is producing gorgeous canvases and ballpoint pen drawings. He's been posting as @diegopiraro on Instagram.

Also, be sure to check Dan's blog for his review of the latest Bizarro comics, and his always-spectacular Sunday page.

If you enjoyed the Bushmiller art above, or are interested in the nuts & bolts of comic strips, I highly recommend Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden's scholarly book How to Read Nancy.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Smoke Rings

Another Saturday, another comics recap from Bizarro Studios North.
Cartoonists love the therapist/patient scenario. After all, we base a lot of humor on observed human behavior. Although plenty of people have imaginary friends, it's a rare (financially solvent) psychologist who has imaginary patients.

I had a vague notion about cigarette, candy or coffee machines, and other such conveniences as simple forms of robots. I reasoned that if they were to develop self-awareness, they might also have varying degrees of job satisfaction depending on the relative glamour of their assigned functions.
My first stab at exploring this idea didn't really make me laugh, although I quite liked the image of a gumball machine robot with wheels skittering around a space station to serve the children on board.
I set my next draft in a bar, a place where patrons regularly discuss their troubles. It was a little better, but not quite there yet. 

However, the bar setting gave me the idea that a gumball machine robot, even a successful one, would only have quarters on hand to pay for its drink. The logical companion would be an automated teller, who can spit out currency all night. Once I had the ATM in the picture, it worked much better. 

The next one underwent less radical changes on its way to print.

We love to pay comical homage to surrealist painter Rene Magritte. Dan Piraro's Bizarro Archive even has the artist's name as a search term to pull up all of his appearances in the comic. We're equally taken with the 1964 painting The Son of Man (a self-portrait with a green apple floating in front of his face) and 1929's The Treachery of Images (often called This is Not a Pipe.)

This past December, I referenced The Son of Man in a gag I wrote for Hilary Price's Rhymes with Orange comic.
Getting back to the subject of revisions as part of the cartooning process, my original sketch of Wednesday's Bizarro included a Piraro-like figure as the surrealist. I'm happy with the final version of the comic, but must admit I was looking forward to drawing and coloring that chunk of amber.

All too often, human speech is used to conceal our true intentions, whether from ourselves or from others. As a cartoonist, I sometimes turn that around and show a character explicitly stating their actual underlying message. The dialog in this cartoon was taken almost verbatim from an attorney discussing jury selection for a recent high-profile (and long overdue) trial.

Writing and drawing comics, like any creative endeavor, is really all about editing. We're always pleased when we manage to reduce a punchline to one or two word (and are absolutely ecstatic when we create a wordless gag). 

When staging the art, we also think about how the reader's eye will "track" through a panel. We assume most readers scan top-to-bottom and left-to-right, and we try to put the payoff in the lower right corner of the panel.
The diagram above shows my best guess for the order in which the elements this gag are revealed to the reader.

We wrap up the week with heartwarming shelter story, reminding us that every animal is beautiful to someone. To contrast with the adorable puppies, I drew Godzilla's offspring as a miniature version of the terrifying monster, and not the cutesy-poo goofball that appeared in the 1960s movies.
The theme music was the best part of Son of Godzilla, but that's a low bar.

Coincidentally, my first self-published comic, an eight page mini from 1985, parodied the Son of Godzilla character. 
I like to think that my drawing and writing have improved over the past 30-odd years. If any readers of this blog have a copy of this book, you are welcome to return it to me for a double-your-money back refund.

Don't forget to cruise over to Dan Piraro's blog to get the perspective on this week's gags from Rancho Bizarro, Mexico, and to admire his latest Sunday panel.

Earworm of the Week 
Björk - Human Behavior (1993)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Fast Food

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. I'm going to try and keep this update brief, since it's the opening day of our community's farm market and I don't want to miss out on the first offerings of the season. Besides, there's a local distillery who offers free samples at their table.

Monday's gag is dedicated to my cartooning colleagues. Most of us probably heard comments about applying ourselves our whole lives. I'm fairly certain that phrase turned up on a few of my old report cards. 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job doing the daily Bizarro is having Dan Piraro as collaborator and editor. Early in the week, I create a pile of cartoon sketches and send them to Dan so we can discuss them and decide which ones make the cut. My first sketch of this one showed the Little Engine with a cigarette drooping from his mouth.
Dan suggested we move his cigarette to the rim of the smokestack, which gave us even more room for a lazy wisp of smoke. It's a small, but brilliant revision.

By the way, little engines make terrible pets, and are very hard on furniture.

There was some online speculation regarding what type of car is depicted in this comic. It bears a passing resemblance to a Volvo P1800, but perhaps this tag found in the glove box offers a clue:
(Posted with apologies to my fellow Italian-Americans)

Mama Calamari knows best, but kids rarely listen.
A friend of mine noted that the young squid was considerably more scared in the strip layout.

This gag features an old and very odd toy. They're still for sale, under the names Bug Out Bob and Panic Pete. The comments and questions on the Amazon product pages are worth checking out.

Continuing our tradition of poking fun at superheroes, we extend our ridicule to the citizens of Metropolis, who always need three guesses to identify their most famous citizen. He finally had enough and confronted them about it, but they still look confused. It's no wonder the guy has identity issues.

We round out the week with a variation on a classic cartoon theme of a person crawling through the desert. I enjoyed drawing the buzzards.

This week, I hit a bit of a milestone in my new role here at Bizarro Studios North, and finished the 150th cartoon under my authorship. 

The stack of 150 originals was lovingly placed in an archival storage box. Yes, I stamp the date on each original drawing and number it in the corner.

Putting the lid on the box reminded me to pause to thank Dan for trusting me to fill in the rectangle every day, and to thank every Bizarro reader for following, sharing, and commenting.

For even more behind the scenes commentary, pop on over to Dan's blog, and while you're there, gaze in wonder at his Sunday panel, and treat yourself to some Bizarro swag.

See you next week!

Saturday, May 05, 2018

The Good, The Bad, & The Creamy

Howdy, pardners. It's time for the weekly cartoon recap from Bizarro Studios North, so let's jump right in.

Monday's gag indulges my fondness for spaghetti westerns, which initially drew me in with their peculiar and haunting soundtrack music. The best-known composer in this genre (probably the greatest living composer in any category) is Ennio Morricone. Even if you don't know his name, it's a safe bet that you'd recognize his iconic theme from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The explanation above is, of course, more than you need to know to get a laugh out of the gag, but any time I see an opportunity to go on about Morricone's music, I grab it.

Tuesday's comic is a simple and straightforward riff on a culinary trend that's mostly quite sensible. The art includes a rare appearance by the Bunny of Exuberance. Among Bizarro's Secret Symbols, the bunny is the trickiest one to draw. I try to avoid him, but sometimes he insists. If I balk at putting him into a comic, he hovers over me and threatens to overturn my ink bottle until I relent.

Goldilocks was incredibly picky, considering she'd broken into a house, helped herself to everything, and expected woodland creatures to anticipate her preferences. Baby Bear makes a valid point. You are free to find layers of commentary in this cartoon, if you're so inclined.

Today's offering reproduces a cave painting discovered in a grotto beneath a location that we now know as 4 Times Square.

Readers who count the Secret Symbols in Bizarro cartoons may see a discrepancy in this one. The number five appears by the signatures, but some people will count six. One of the characters in the cave painting is in fact pierced by the Arrow of Vulnerability, but we chose not to count it in the Secret Symbol total, since that detail would probably be impossible to spot in the ever-shrinking newsprint version of the cartoon. 

If you came up with a total of six symbols, give yourself extra credit for excellent eyesight.

Friday's gag is completely absurd, yet somehow strangely, believable. I've never been able to grow much of a beard, so I just might get a troll doll to see it it improves my concentration. But not this one.

This pun only works if you use the American pronunciation of Tintin's name, so I offer preemptive apologies to readers around the world for whom it makes no sense.

Thank you for reading and commenting, and for sharing Bizarro on your social media platforms, bulletin boards, and refrigerator doors. Every Sunday, Dan Piraro posts his own comments on the week's cartoons from our world HQ in Rancho Bizarro, Mexico, and shares his latest glorious Sunday panel.

Dan has also started a new Instagram feed where he shares his ultra-fine art. There are some early works, as well as amazing new pieces he's creating for an upcoming art exhibit. I highly recommend surfing over to IG and following @DiegoPiraro.

Earworm for the Week

Ennio Morricone's Main Title theme from A Fistful of Dollars (1964)