Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Only One

This week's batch of cartoons completes my first six months of doing the daily Bizarro daily. I've found the readers to be loyal, attentive, opinionated, and funny, and we're grateful for every one of you. 

Although Dan Piraro is prone to blushing, I must also say that I'm truly lucky to have my favorite cartoonist as my editor. Doing a daily cartoon is a continuous learning process, and the best job I've ever had.

So far, I've only miscounted the secret symbols once (and we've since corrected that panel in the online archive), and have received surprisingly little hate mail. A few readers have even left tips via this blog, which brightened my spirits and helped to feed my caffeine habit.

Now, on to the latest shenanigans.

Speaking of jobs, I used to have a normal gig where I had to go to an office every day. One day when I was off sick, I spent the day under a blanket on the living room sofa. Around 2:00 PM, our two cats trotted over to the front door of the apartment, and sat looking up at the mail slot. In a few minutes, the postal carrier arrived, and the cats watched as the day's delivery was pushed through the slot and fell to the floor. They then looked at each other, and went back to whatever they were doing. I was at home the next day and saw the same sequence of events. Apparently, the mail delivery provided them with a moment of entertainment every day. I probably should have sent them a catnip toy once in a while.

We were proud of the fact that we didn't do a typical gag about people hating the sound of bagpipes. Our would-be Romeo simply chose the instrument for its volume.

Insider cartooning tip: Bagpipes are weird looking, but they're still easier to draw than a bicycle.

Backyard cookery has come a long way since the days of the simple charcoal grill. Increasingly elaborate (and expensive) setups are available to indulge suburban food nerds. The gent in today's cartoon has taken things to a new level, going as far as indulging in pizzaiolo cosplay, to the annoyance of his offspring.

Many (most?) people would rather eat a chunk of drywall than a conversation heart candy. I'm one of those weirdos who actually enjoys them, and I look forward to the half-price sales every February 15th. If you get a box with one that says FAX ME or OH, YOU KID, the candy is past its expiration date, but is probably indistinguishable from a "fresh" box. 

My first
sketch showed an even larger heart that had crushed an unsuspecting farmer. The idea of aliens assuming that people actually use the candies to communicate was kind of funny, but the gag still felt a little off. 
For the inked art, I added a couple of extraterrestrials trying to figure out what went wrong with their offering as the Earthlings fled in terror.
Although we liked the look of the floating aliens, the perspective and size relationships in the sketch were a little confusing, so we removed them, and went back to a saucer in the sky for the final version.

The rulings of the board are final, but even if you aren't granted parole, at least you go back to your cell with a plush toy.

Here's another gag that we changed after I finished inking it.
The original version was much more dramatic, but we decided to play down the tentacles, allowing the reader an extra beat to discover what's happening.

This goes to show how much we care about giving Bizarro readers the best quality cartoons we can, making changes even after the artwork is fully completed.

While you're wasting time online, why not visit
Dan's blog for his take on this week's gags, and to see his latest Sunday page. You might also order some cool swag from the Bizarro Shop.

This Week's Bonus Track

Wednesday's gag got this song stuck in my head. 

As earworms go, one could do a lot worse.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Artificial Illiteracy

As I write this dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, I'm catching up after a weekend getaway to Connecticut and New York. We visited the Brooklyn Museum and caught the astounding exhibit, David Bowie Is.
The multimedia collection includes film & video, costumes, artwork and lyrics, and more. It runs through July 15, so if you're in the area, I enthusiastically recommend checking it out. One of my favorite pieces was the original art layout for Bowie's 1980 LP Scary Monsters. The original was huge, and it was fascinating to see the paste-up in its collaged glory.

The weekend mini-vacation was fun, but I'm happy to be back at work on more comics for Bizarro's faithful Jazz Pickles. Here's a rundown of the latest batch.

We started the week with a canine twist on a cliched scene from just about every TV cop show. I was pretty happy with the facial expressions and body language in each of the characters. My first sketch was pretty close to the final art, but after roughing it out, I realized that if the Chihuahua's ears were turned down and back, he'd look more threatening to the suspect.

The main benefit of autocorrect is having a culprit to blame for our mistakes, so it's useful in a way its developers may not have intended.

Sometimes our cartoons include layers of social commentary. Other times, we feel like doing a silly gag that makes us laugh. Interestingly, there's another member of the Pied family who plays the fiddle, and is effective at luring swarms of bumblebees.

Thursday's corporate gag includes a tip of the hat to MAD Magazine, which was one of my early comedic influences. The character with a pencil in his hand is meant to resemble MAD's mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, doodling the odd bird-like creature that often shows up in the magazine for no apparent reason.

We love to draw Frankenstein's monster, so any time we can work the creature into a gag, we're happy. The monster also seems to be pleased with his new ink.

Difficult or critical parents are common enough cartoon subjects, and we dip into that well now and then. Although I'm not a parent myself, we strive for equal humorous reference to disobedient children, too.

Come back to visit again next Saturday, and please pop by Dan Piraro's blog to check out his latest Sunday page and his commentary on this week's cartoons.

Bonus Track

When I was but a wee lad, "The Supermen" was the first David Bowie song I ever heard. This version remains a favorite.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Scales of Justice

Once again, we're pleased to present the regular weekly cartoon roundup from Bizarro Studios North.

An Instagram follower commented, "But the therapist is a pig, so he’s clearly bias [sic]. Wolf should be seeing a therapist who is a predator, like him." 

We reject that unenlightened view of counseling professionals. Bias? This little piggy has none.

Some readers may detect a whiff of editorial content in this cartoon, and they aren't necessarily wrong. Nearly all of my cartoons comment on (general or specific) human behavior. As to anything more political, I refer to a favorite quote from the late Jay Kennedy:
 " the fine arts, artists generally comment on the world only obliquely; and sadly, only those people who have the leisure to study art history can fully appreciate their comments. By contrast, cartoons are an art form accessible to all people. They can simply laugh at the jokes or look beyond them to see the artist’s view of the world. Cartoons are multi-leveled art accessible to everyone at whatever level they choose to enjoy."
My general approach to gag cartooning is to avoid exaggerated gestures and exclamatory dialog, in favor of a deadpan delivery. I'd originally considered showing the two citizens bludgeoning each other for the emperor's amusement, with the same line of dialog, but thought that might be a bit too gruesome for the daily funny pages.

Speaking of human behavior, documenting every little event with a selfie has become, to many people, more important than the thing itself. At least the character above is photographing himself doing something he actually accomplished with his own (gloved) hand. 

He's equally qualified for a cabinet appointment.

The crew at this precinct sometimes refers to the interrogation room as "the herpetarium." Friday's gag was the most fun to draw of the current batch. While the animals in Monday's gag were stylized cartoon representations, I tried to render the reptilian detectives more realistically (at least their heads).

Saturday's panel was intended as nothing more than a rejoinder to a clichéd phrase, but seeing it again several weeks after drawing it, I'm finding additional layers in the comic. I promise that we'll start next week with a lighter laugh.

Thanks, as always, for reading, sharing, and commenting. Check out Dan Piraro's blog for his review of the week's cartoons, and his latest Sunday page.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Please Swallow Responsibly

Greetings from Bizarro Studios North. We started off the week with a bit of confusion, and are working to establish policies to ensure it never happens again.

Monday's gag was a milestone of sorts, being the first one in which I miscounted the number of Secret Symbols in the panel. Although the signature indicates four, there are actually five symbols in the art. Whether or not you look for and count the symbols, I at least hope the gag elicited a laugh. There's now a corrected version online, but today's blog post documents this embarrassing mistake.

Owls don't even make it into the top ten list of the world's loudest animal, and I almost drew today's cartoon with howler monkeys. However, the sound of the word "screech" ultimately sealed the deal for this gag. Also, the owlet was  perfectly suited for that eye-rolling expression.

Air travel would be a lot more tolerable if all passengers could be temporarily shut down. Since that's not practical, this fellow decided to disable his own sensory input. It's not necessarily recommended, but you must admire his ingenuity.

Some sharks don't have to swim constantly to stay alive. They're the ones who have to count calories.

I drew this one as soon as  I realized that, of course, gummy bears would prey upon Swedish fish. The land of candy can sometimes seem cruel.

The more we learn about the ways these devices invade privacy and harvest information, indifference would feel like an upgrade.

For further insight into this week's funnies, ask your virtual assistant to cruise over to, where you'll find Dan Piraro's comments on these gags, as well as his latest Sunday page.

Shameless Self-Promotion Department

When I'm not drawing eyeballs and dynamite, I perform with a music group, The Red Beans & Rice Combo. I'm lucky enough to have teamed up with a couple of very talented actual musicians, and our debut album, Let the Joy Begin! was just released by Bonedog Records. The album is available from the usual download sites, and you can listen to it on Spotify.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Chicken Wars

The staff here at Bizarro Studios North is still energized after seeing dozens of colleagues at the National Cartoonists Society's annual Reuben Awards weekend in Philadelphia over Memorial Day. We had a few drinks, caught up with friends, and toasted cartoonists who left us over the past year.

Among the many highlights were seeing special awards given to the legendary Arnold Roth and former King Features comics editor Brendan Burford. The award for graphic novel went to Emil Ferris's extraordinary book, My Favorite Thing is Monsters.
Hanging with Arnold & Caroline Roth, and MAD's Sergio Aragonés
With Zippy creator, Bill Griffith
I wish I had taken more photos during the weekend, but I needed both hands for beverages. We do, however, have pictures to share from this week's comics pages.

Have you ever heard a waiter say you'd made a terrible choice? Maybe not, but I do believe this comment was one hundred percent sincere. I'd forgotten that the ant farm toy was invented by a fellow Pittsburgher, Milton Levine a/k/a Uncle Milton.
Uncle Milton Levine

When Tuesday's cartoon appeared, a Bizarro reader commented, "I hope She-Hulk is running!" I couldn't disagree with that, though if we could truly have comics characters run for office, I'd give my vote to Lynda Barry's unstoppable Marlys Mullen.
Vote for Marlys!

Wednesday's gag is for artists of all types who constantly see their work altered, mangled, and generally misused all over the Web. We at Bizarro are fortunate to have enlightened, respectful readers, but, unfortunately, every artist occasionally encounters someone like the buffoon depicted above, though these types seldom exhibit this level of self-awareness.

One of the great pleasures of a favorite coffee shop is conversing with the other patrons and the hardworking people who craft that life-giving elixir we call espresso. I'm lucky enough to be a regular at a few cafes around Pittsburgh, all of which offer camaraderie and atmosphere that enhances my caffeine intake. I'm not sure if any of my locals ever received a text order from someone inside the shop, but it certainly wouldn't come as a surprise. 

Gag cartoons often rely on surprise to get a laugh, and sometimes that involves misdirection, or providing an unexpected explanation for some incongruity in the image. This one depends on the reader not noticing something in the image at first glance, and having to look at it a second time after reading the caption.

As an inveterate second-guesser and self-critic, I now wish I'd made the grass and shrubbery in the background much darker, or given the zombies paler flesh. Writing this blog post, it looks to me like there's way too much green in the panel. That tendency to dislike aspects of one's own work seems to be common among many artists I admire, so I at least feel that I'm in good company.

Saturday's gag had to be reviewed by the syndicate's legal team before we could run it. I didn't realize that the Popeye's fast food chain had ended their association with the famous cartoon character many years ago, so there was some question about using him in this context.

Our attorneys ultimately decided that the gag qualifies as "defendable parody," but we had a backup plan. If we had to drop the gag in its original form, we were going to swap in a Burger King bag showing their weird mascot, and edit the dialog to read, "I believe, sir, that with our combined military expertise, we could overthrow the king." 

Anything to avoid drawing a totally new cartoon.

While this joke was under review, I did some research on the name of the restaurant franchise, and read that the owner claimed he'd named the business after Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle, Gene Hackman's character in the 1972 film, The French Connection. Hackman's character was a fictionalized version of real-life New York detective Eddie "Popeye" Egan, who was given the nickname by colleagues when he flexed his muscles after chasing down a suspect. The food chain owners can deny it if they want to, but it still comes back to a spinach-eating sailor.

Be sure to check out Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog for his take on the latest batch of cartoons, and to see what he's created for the Sunday page.