Saturday, September 29, 2018

Puttin' On The Ritz

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. It's a hectic day here at BSN. My musical colleagues and I are loading up equipment and steaming our suits for tonight's gig celebrating the release of our debut CD.
The Red Beans & Rice Combo
(l-r) Dave Klug, Wayno, Tom Roberts
We wish you could all be here for the fun. If you'd like to check us out (and support your local cartoonist), the album is available at Amazon, CD Baby, Itunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

Now that my commercial is out of the way, let's review the week in cartoons.

The dummy's name is Marshall Stax. 

My initial sketch took a weirdly different approach to the idea of a very large dummy.
We decided to scrap that first version, because you almost never see a left-handed ventriloquist.

When a dog or cat loses its collar, 97.5 percent of pet owners will joke that their animal is naked. That's a known fact.

I once threw a plumber out of my house, after he'd written a $17,000 repair estimate without for an ordinary clog (later remedied within 10 minutes by a non-thieving professional). Weeks later, a hapless employee of the crooked company called to ask me to take a customer satisfaction survey. It didn't go well.

Dog-whistling often attracts the wrong followers, and their stench is nearly impossible to scrub away, but apparently it's a hard habit to break. Just saying.

A waiter and customer attempt to out-curate each other in this hipsterish display of metaphorical chest thumping.
In case you were wondering, our man's Leporine Jazz album is, of course, a mono promotional copy on the Pickle Records label.

Serving suggestion photos are the original misleading profile pictures. The cereal boxes of my childhood years are largely responsible for my deep-seated cynicism.

As always, sincere thanks to those who read and comment on Bizarro, those who share the comic without altering the art or cropping out the credit line, and especially to those who put up with my weekly blog posts.

Please also check out Dan Piraro's blog, for his insightful analysis of the week's gags, and to admire his latest Sunday page. That's also where you can snag official Bizarro swag.

Bonus Track

A favorite selection from the Captain.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Warmup at the OK Corral

Happy Saturday, pardners. I reckon it's time for a roundup of this here week's cartoon pictures.

We started off with a bit of limbering up, and some cowboy lingo, an unbeatable combination. 

Tuesday's cartoon features rare appearances by both Quasimodo's American cousin and the sideways copyright notice. 

This gag involved more photo research than I'd anticipated.

Note: This cartoon contains no Secret Symbols.
A fable in one panel, offering lessons on greed, impatience, and learning from one's mistakes.

Take that, Aesop.

This gag baffled a few readers. It's a slightly different take on the familiar humorous device representing a person struggling with temptation by showing the "good" and "bad" personalities on their shoulders. In this case, it's recast with a credit card as the protagonist, a joker (wild card) as the devil, and an employee ID as the angel.

Okay, maybe it is a weird premise.

By way of commentary on Friday's Bizarro, let us revisit 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.”
I once noticed a container of cookie-dough ice cream at the market, and it struck me as an odd concept. I obsessed about the idea, and couldn't let go of it until I put it into a cartoon. An early note in my sketchbook on this idea said "tomato paste sandwich," which I wisely crossed out.

For more insight and commentary on this week's comics, check out Dan Piraro's blog, and admire his latest magnificent Sunday page.

Bonus Track of the Week

"Blue Shadows on the Trail" Bing Crosby (1947)

I grew up in the era of the TV western, and my father tuned in to them all. My brothers and I had to play quietly while Dad watched his "shoot-em-ups." As a result, my musical DNA includes the popular culture's take on cowboy tunes, which has varying degrees of overlap with reality. I enjoy everything from Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western scores to the corniest hokum from movies and television.

This song was written in 1946 by Eliot Daniel and Johnny Lange, and was recorded by the Sons of the Pioneers (with and without Roy Rogers), Gene Autry, and others. Bing Crosby's take is a favorite.

Forty Years later, Randy Newman wrote a song titled "Blue Shadows on the Trail," for the John Landis film Three Amigos. Newman's (lesser) composition borrows the exact melody of the titular line from the 1946 song, but he apparently got full writing credit, without acknowledging the source material. 

My research is incomplete, and if Newman has in fact credited Daniel & Lange, reference to that would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

No Direction Home

This has been a week of sad memories, both national and personal, horrific weather events, and the "normal" onslaught of short-sighted, self-serving presidential shenanigans. We hope that we are able to offer some moments of relief in the form of a laugh or two amid trying times.

Fairy tales often function as allegories, and their familiar characters and stories offer cartoonists a handy framework for commenting on general human behavior, as well as specific events and situations. Any modern political subtext you might infer from Monday's Bizarro is purely intentional.

Old technology sometimes has its advantages.

The headlight response is difficult to overcome, even for an experienced professional.

This gag turned out to be well suited to the strip layout, once I decided to put the directors in a balcony box.
Since we believe that most readers' eyes travel a path from upper left to lower right, we try to place the payoff element (in this comic, the dual shadows) in the bottom right corner. In this example, the strip layout flows in that direction quite smoothly. Panels, or conventional pages, are usually assumed to be read in a "Z" pattern, and the panel conforms to that path.

The following diagrams show my estimations of the reader's discovery of each part of the gag from setup to payoff.
It's certainly not a science, but I think these are pretty close for most readers. 

The Senatus Romanus was established around 700 BC, and lasted in some form until the middle of the 15th century. That would place our fictional holdout's age at somewhere around 600, making him one of the oldest senators currently serving.

I'm not sure if it's a pun in the generally accepted sense, but I've done a few gags using this form of wordplay, where a letter is added to or subtracted from a word, resulting in a different (but comically appropriate) meaning.

We close out the week with a straight-up bro gag. My favorite aspect of this drawing is the background detail showing the Pie of Opportunity on a discarded pizza box. The word "pizza" above the illustration helps to conceal the symbol, or at least delay its recognition. The human brain is fascinating, at least the ones that function.

Interestingly, this gag is not my first time designing a pizza box.

Do yourself a favor and check out Dan Piraro's blog, for his scholarly analysis of the week's gags, and his latest magnificent Sunday page. Pick up some cool Bizarro swag while you're there, too.

Bonus Track of the Week
Ralph Carney, "Lament for Charleston"

This week, I'm sharing a powerful composition by my friend Ralph Carney, which he wrote in response to one of this country's all-too-familiar mass shootings. 

Ralph died unexpectedly on December 16, 2017. He's been on my mind a lot over this past week, since Friday marked one year since I last saw him.
Photo by Megan Hinchcliffe
September 14, 2017
, Pittsburgh PA

RIP Ralphie

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Bird is the Word

It's September already? My first year as the daily Bizarro cartoonist is flying by. Every day is a learning experience, and I feel I'm settling into a groove. Almost.

Always check your pockets and hidden compartments.

A few readers commenting on the King Features site have assumed that any character with a goatee and mustache is meant to represent Dan Piraro. In fact, I have only drawn him into one Bizarro panel:
Dan is, of course, the tall dog.

Tuesday's cartoon is dedicated to all librarians, educators, and independent booksellers. The work you do is more important than ever. Thank you.

Even guinea pigs fret about details when entertaining guests.

Thursday's gag went through a few changes along the way to publication.
The first rough depicted a depressing gallery of barflies contrasted against a large "happy hour" sign. Not bad, but we wanted to dig a little deeper for a gag.
The second sketch was more satisfying, with a bar full of patrons giving the stink-eye to one customer who seemed a little too happy. This was a subtler approach to the idea of happy hour not actually being about happiness, but the panel was crowded with ten characters. If we'd gone with this image, the giddy customer would have been so small as to be easily missed. I went back to the original staging, with four customers seated at the bar, and placed the punchline character on the right-hand side of the panel.

The Friday spot is usually reserved for my favorite gag of the week. I like the economy of this one, with just four words of dialog. I've said in the past that a good single panel gag cartoon is like a punk rock 45. It's direct, it has no unnecessary frills, it makes its statement, and it ends. This one comes closest to that goal this week.

As summer winds down, we finish the week with a look at two approaches to a day at the beach.

For additional insight into the week's cartoonery, check out Dan Piraro's blog. While you're there, you can marvel at his latest Sunday Bizarro page, and order some official swag from his shop.

I also invite you to follow my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds, for your daily Bizarro fix, along with whatever other random item momentarily captures my attention.

Bonus Track of the Week
The title of this week's post was inspired by the pigeons that appeared on Monday and Friday, and quotes a lyric from the garage-rock classic "Surfin' Bird." The song, as performed by the Trashmen, was originally released in 1963, and it's been covered by many artists, including The Cramps, Pee-Wee Herman, and the Ramones.

Here's a version you may not have heard, by some friends of mine known as the Psychotic Petunias. The Petunias were a mysterious studio-only band who released their lone single in 1978 on Mayhem Records. Vocals on this side were performed by J.R. Bird. 

Yes, that's his real name.

The Petunias made at least one additional recording, in 1979. A certain aspiring cartoonist and wannabe musician participated in that session, on vocals and keyboard. The single was never officially released, although three copies of a test pressing were made.
The record pressing plant pasted a typewritten label on the plain white sleeve, which mistakenly referred to the band as The Phycolic Petunias. 

In recent years, unconfirmed rumors have circulated regarding a reissue of all of the Petunias' recordings, but as of this writing, that hasn't happened.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Strip Search

Another Saturday, another dispatch from Bizarro Studios North.

As some readers have noted, many of our client newspapers run Bizarro in a horizontal space that would normally accommodate a regular comic strip. So, for every daily panel, we also create a "landscape" version of the gag. This involves repositioning elements, adding or editing line breaks to the dialogue, and creating additional art to fill up the space. It usually takes a half day to do the strip conversions for a week's cartoons. 

Converting this batch of panels presented some interesting challenges, so I'm sharing both versions of each daily. This is probably more than enough "process" talk for most readers, so we won't make it a regular part of the blog.

If my own cats are typical of the species, the smaller the box, the more attractive as a spot to occupy.
I wanted to place the projected image of the contented cat on the far right, so I reversed the orange cat to appear to be speaking to an audience to the reader's left. Shrinking the art made the O2 secret symbol too small to read in print, so I bumped it up a little.

Judging from comments on this gag, our readers love to make jokes about
Schrödinger's cat.

Someday Melodramamine will be available over the counter. Until then, sufferers of overemotion sickness are well-equipped to convince their doctors to write a prescription.
This was one of the easier conversions of the week, requiring minimal shuffling and resizing, and a very small amount of additional art.

Halloween is just around the corner, so it's a good time to start a retox program, and there's no better place than your local InvertedStarbucks.
Another fairly simple conversion. The only extra drawing required was some shading in the upper right corner, and cream & sugar on the left. Based on these last two, I've made a mental note to try to keep the dialog in the upper third of the panel whenever possible.

Thursday's gag is grammatically correct, although it sounds wrong. Turning it into a strip was a trick in itself.
The magician's hat made the art a little too vertical, so I removed it and simply drew in his hair. The strip layout also allowed for a full view of the magic boxes.

This isn't really a political statement, but rather a comment on the state of  political discourse. At the risk of sounding like a politician, there is a difference.
Every element in today's comic was tweaked or rearranged in some way. My intermediate Photoshop file had 18 layers at one point.

Saturday's gag reminds us of the importance of speaking clearly.
On rare occasions, the panel and strip configurations will include different secret symbols. We lost a stick of dynamite today, but gained a slice of pie and a (reflected) UFO.

Thanks, as always, for reading Bizarro and checking in on the blog. Next week's post will be less technical.

Each week, Dan Piraro also posts his own cartoon recap, along with the latest always-stunning Sunday Bizarro. You ought to check it out.

Bonus Track of the Week

A beloved Halloween carol, by the Shaggs.