Saturday, May 25, 2019

Jet Lag

I'm still recovering from an overwhelming weekend among colleagues at the National Cartoonists Society's 73rd annual Reuben Awards, which were held in Huntington Beach, California. The Pittsburgh NCS Chapter was well-represented at the awards this year.

For the third consecutive year, I had the honor of designing the t-shirt for the attendees' goodie bags.

Red carpet photos by Molly Stromoski
Pittsburgh cartoonist, writer and standup comedian Teresa Roberts Logan did a bang-up job as the first woman to emcee the Reuben Awards. Here's TRL (left) on the red carpet with Rhymes With Orange cartoonist Hilary Price.

Pittsburgh cartoonist, illustrator, and drummer extraordinaire Dave Klug won the Reuben Divisional Award in the new Variety Entertainment category. Dave couldn't be there, but he gave a short and sweet acceptance via video.

My friend Rob Rogers (another Pittsburgher) took home the award for Editorial Cartoons. Here he is on the red carpet being photobombed by yours truly.

My longtime pal Mary Fleener attended for the first time. Mary appeared on the NCS's first panel on underground comix, and was at the NCS Fest signing copies of her new graphic novel Billie the Bee. Everyone reading this blog should get a copy of the book. It's Mary's best work ever.

Previous Reuben winner Vince Dorse was nominated again for his online comic Untold Tales of Bigfoot. Vince is part of my hometown's varied and active cartoonist tribe.

Last weekend was also the kickoff of the first NCS Fest, which brought a ton of cartoonists to the streets of Huntington Beach. I snapped a photo with two MAD artists, Dan McConnell (left) and Sergio Aragonés (center), two of the friendliest fellows you could hope to meet.

I didn't get any awards, but a colleague who attended gave me a jar of Bizarro-esque candies. I think I'll hang onto these and decorate cupcakes for my birthday.

The week's cartoons pale in comparison to the excitement of the Reuben Awards, but we hope this batch as at least worthy of a Golden Chuckle Prize.

It can't smell worse than actual canned cat food. 

When I uploaded the image for this one, Dan Piraro told me I should have put a numeral two next to the signature, because I only had two Bizarro Secret Symbols in the panel (dynamite and pie). I was proud to have placed the K2 symbol where Dan missed it.

When the customer paid this gardener, he asked, "Do you have anything smaller?"

Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed the unique Piraro money changing hands. Actually, my Bizarro royalties are issued in this currency/

The Millennial Godfather refers to this as an emoji you can't refuse.

Courtship dances of some birds have evolved over the centuries.

Shakespeare slayeth the crowd. His upcoming special is called Tee-hee or Not Tee-hee.

Hans Christian Andersen was still working the bugs out of the tale at this stage.

View Dan Piraro's blog for more commentary and his latest Sunday page. Dan always takes advantage of the extra acreage in the Sunday section, creating beautifully rendered and highly detailed pages.

There's no bonus track this week. After the sleepless weekend at the Reuben Awards, I'm keeping things quiet around Bizarro Studios North.

See you next week!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

G.I. Bill

It's a big day in the comics world. This evening, the National Cartoonists Society will announce the winners of the group's 73rd annual Reuben Awards, sometimes referred to as the Oscars of Cartooning. Bizarro isn't in the running this year, but I'll be rooting for fellow Pittsburgh cartoonists Vince Dorse, Dave Klug, and Rob Rogers. My hometown will also be represented by writer, cartoonist, and standup comic Teresa Roberts Logan, who will emcee the Reubens banquet.

If you're gambling on the various categories, here are some tips from our friend Tom Heintjes at Hogan's Alley Magazine.

Now, here's a look at the week's Bizarro gags. Let us know if you think any are worthy to submit as entries for next year's Reuben Awards.

The patient's tallow readings are a little on the high side, but their sodium levels are right in the "savory" range. Dr. Russet is recommending an internal exam, and is referring the patient to Dr. Fingerling.

If Lassie could only operate a can opener, she'd have ditched her accident-prone family long ago.

Wednesday's cartoon seemed funny when I wrote it, but now every time I look at it only feels discouraging.

While writing this post, I noticed that the center character bears a passing (if unintentional) resemblance to Philip Proctor, one of my humor heroes, so I don't mind looking at as much I would otherwise.

What's truly baffling about alien abductions is the fact that the human captives are always returned to Earth in trucker caps, bib overalls, and flannel shirts, no matter what they wore before being picked up.

Recently, my partner-in-comics, Dan Piraro, was watching one of those food programs about fancy-schmancy restaurants, and he saw a feature on a "single-udder butters." As Dan related to me:
It is literally a plank of wood with three dollops of butter a few inches apart. Each dollop is made from the milk of a single cow. You’re supposed to compare the subtle differences in the butter from each cow. And they don’t even give you a cracker to put it on. Just the butter.
We both loved the sound and rhythm of the phrase "single-udder butters." Turning it into a gag was so easy, I would've felt guilty simply presenting it as described. In order to feel as if I put forth some effort, I changed the dish from the equivalent of an oenophile's horizontal tasting (the same vintage or style from different producers) to a vertical tasting (different vintages from the same producer). 

My first draft used the term "vertical tasting," but we decided that was too obscure, even for Bizarro's curious and well-read audience.

In the spirit of full culinary disclosure, I must admit that I'd unhesitatingly order this dish.

Bizarro doesn't feature any regular characters in the traditional (licensable) sense, which is why Dan and I aren't making millions in royalties from plush toys or CGI movies featuring celebrity voices and Randy Newman songs.

I do, however, find myself returning to a rotating cast of characters, and character types, as direct objects of parody, or as proxies for commenting on human psychology. This week's batch includes two favorites: Frankenstein's monster and Mister Potato Head. 

Other frequent performers on the Bizarro stage include:
  • Cowboys
  • Clowns
  • The Grim Reaper
  • Psychiatrists and other medical professionals
  • Bigfoot
  • Dogs, cats, and other pets
  • Insects
  • Satan and other religious figures
  • Santa Claus
  • Zombies
  • Criminals, cops, judges, and lawyers
  • Characters from fairy tales, literature, and mythology
  • Historical figures
Oh, and we really enjoy making fun of bro-dudes and superheroes.

As always, I recommend visiting Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog, where he offers additional insightful and amusing commentary on the gags of the week, and puts me to shame with another gorgeous Sunday page.

Bonus Track

Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen formed in 1967. In in a stroke of fortunate timing, the group (now called the Commander Cody Band) released the single and video "Two Triple Cheese" just as MTV was launching in 1981. In its earliest days, the network was wide open for any musical material to fill up airtime, and put the video into regular rotation. The low-budget production hasn't lost its appeal over the years.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Hard Reboot

Last Saturday, I joked about staying offline to avoid encountering the phrase "May the fourth be with you." 

I nearly succeeded, but the New York Times crossword puzzle bushwhacked me.
We'll try again next year. 

Now, let's review the week's cartoon offerings.
He was happy to hear that the noodles are made of ancient grains.
Old Leather Apron was inspired after reading The Life-Threatening Magic of Tidying Up. I have to wonder whether this cartoon will make sense to anyone reading it five years from now.
The TV network logo parodied in this panel was replaced in 2005, but the old design fit into our layout better than the current one.
Wise military strategists know that nobody can resist a piñata.
Overwhelming forensic evidence sometimes requires a daring defense. 

Frankenstein's monster is one of our favorite recurring characters, and he'll undoubtedly turn up in future gags.
This treatment method is not recommended for human patients.

For even more smartypants commentary, point your browsing device to Dan Piraro's blog, where he also shows off a beautiful Sunday page that was almost not publishable.

Bonus Track

"Jack the Ripper" by Screaming Lord Sutch

David Edward Sutch (1940-1999) was a classic English eccentric, who ran for Parliament 40 times, most of them as leader of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

Saturday, May 04, 2019


Today's update was written well in advance and posted automatically, so I can avoid the Internet today. I'm trying to get through the day without encountering the phrase "May the fourth be with you." 

To atone for exposing you to that overused pun, here are six cartoons and some lovely music played by a lovely man.

They're skeptical of spectacles, and are known in the neighborhood as myopia deniers, though they say they're simply "lens hesitant." The family's scientific heroes are Jenny McCarthy and Rob Schneider.

This story has a happy ending: The mad king appointed the princess and the fool as his senior advisors.

A jury of one's peers is okay, but a judge with one's genes is even better. Just ask [fill in any name from recent political sentencing news].

Great Grandpa can sleep soundly now, thanks to the reassuring bedtime story. That, and a triple bourbon.

Sometimes sugarcoating the message helps after all.

I consulted reference photos for the guitar geeks in our readership, but I undoubtedly got some details wrong. I'll claim it was just a strategy to prompt comments correcting me.

The caption features a form of wordplay that I call a streptonym. The name hasn't caught on yet, but I'm sticking with it. Are you listening, OED?

Check out my partner Dan Piraro's blog, where he comments on this week's cartoons, and shares some wonderful personal news.

Bonus Track

Mentioning guitars gave me a convenient excuse to share this video of Pittsburgh native Joe Negri playing the jazz standard "Body and Soul."

Joe is recognized around the world for portraying "Handyman Negri" on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood for almost 40 years. He's known around Pittsburgh as a beloved teacher and a fine, friendly gentleman, who in real life is even nicer than his fictional character. He recently retired from his teaching position in the Music department at the University of Pittsburgh at age 92, and he'll be missed around the campus.