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)


  1. Eye tracking - interesting and educational. However, when I viewed the comic the first time my eyes did not track the way you mentioned it. The second, third, fourth, etc. times they followed your predicted path perfectly. What was different the first time? Well since I have been reading Bizarro since it was first published and am well versed on hidden symbols on my first read my eyes track the perimeter, move to the middle, then to the signature to check the count, before I read any words. In other words, I track the symbols.

  2. That's fascinating insight. It's true that Bizarro's readers are out of the ordinary!

    Thank you for the your long-time readership!