Saturday, October 26, 2019

Bête Orange

If someone's wearing a mask he's gonna tell you the truth. If he's not wearing a mask it's highly unlikely.
Bob Dylan

It's almost Halloween; our favorite holiday here at Bizarro Studios North. We scheduled today's update for automatic posting, since we'll be away from the studio attending our community's Halloween parade this morning.

This is a costume I wore many years ago, portraying a cartoon character nobody heard of before or since: Grippo the Octopus. Despite multiple web searches, I've located no information beyond a single photo, apparently from an expired eBay auction.
I can certainly see why I grabbed this box from the toy store shelf. Who could resist that creepy "Glo-in-the-dark" mug peering out from behind its cellophane window?

Let's hope that you find a treat or two among the week's cartoons.

The character communicating via crystal ball apparently doesn't realize that those daily visits are actually part of his parents' hellish punishment.

This looks like more of a pamphlet than a novel, but Whiskers has difficulty with anything that can't be typed by merely walking back and forth across the keyboard, so even a few pages is an impressive accomplishment.
We had fun drawing this one, and based our book cover on the actual novel's original dust jacket. Since ours is a much shorter book, we included fewer leaves than the original design.

Sometimes mocking our fears lessens their power over us. 

For a character with no limbs, that's a mighty clean carving job.

Tonto's unspoken response to this wardrobe malfunction is, "Do your own shopping, kemosabe."

Shortly after I uploaded this gag, my cartooning co-conspirator, Dan Piraro, sent me the folllowing photo:
It's an old, handmade papier-mâché mask that's on display at Rancho Bizarro World HQ in Mexico. It's eerily similar to the one I drew in the Lone Ranger panel, despite the fact that I'd never seen it before.

The police photographer is relieved that the suspect didn't request Snapchat's cat ears filter.

Saturday's cartoon can either be read as a joke or a product proposal.

Thanks for joining us again, Jazz Pickles. For additional frightening commentary, ring Dan Piraro's virtual doorbell and check out his weekly blog post, where you can also enjoy his latest Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

In honor of Halloween, here are Los Straightjackets, four very cool masked musicians, backing up the great Nick Lowe on what's possibly his all-time best composition.

What's so funny, indeed.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Ooze and Ahhs

On Thursday of this week, we paused at the drawing board to raise a cup of coffee, celebrating the 103rd birthday of the patron saint of Bizarro Studios North: the great Virgil Franklin Partch

This 1960 photo of VIP (as he often signed his work) watches over us every day as we labor in  the cartoon trenches.

Now, let's review our recent attempts at graphical humor.
The old novelty X-ray Specs didn't actually enable the user to peer at anyone's bones, but our official Bizarro brand Keyhole Cheaters make no false claims. They merely promise to make everything seem just a little naughty.

This cartoon made some readers cringe, but think of the poor massage therapist who almost passed out after moving the customer's privacy towel.

As we approach Halloween, here's a look into the basement at Castle Frankenstein, where Viktor Junior shows some ingenuity while tending to his pets.

We followed up on Thursday with a seasonal variant on the familiar image of neighbors chatting over the backyard fence.

If there truly were a heavenly afterlife, most of us would have to employ this strategy in order to gain entrance.

One must admire a professional who seeks innovative ways to improve their job-related skills.

Thanks for sticking with us for another week of foolishness. Do yourself a favor and surf over to my partner Dan Piraro's blog, where you can see what he has to say about this batch of comics, and shares his latest widescreen Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

Unlike those cheap
toys, X-Ray Spex the band always delivered the goods.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Seance Fiction

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. We're buzzing with activity here at Bizarro Studios North as we plan our Halloween costumes and begin the countdown till local ghouls come knocking on the door.

Our tradition for the holiday is to order a delivery from a favorite pizza shop and watch Something Wicked This Way Comes, with pauses to hand out goodies. If you haven't seen this 1983 movie, we highly recommend it. It was co-written by Ray Bradbury (and adapted from his novel) and boasts an outstanding cast, including Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd, Royal Dano, and Pam Grier. It's an effectively creepy film, that was probably too scary for kids when released.

How do you celebrate? Reply in the comments section.

Now, let's look back at this week's sometimes-creepy cartoons.

To accommodate all of the restless souls floating around, some psychics are now taking sign-ups for variety shows.

A sharp-eyed reader pointed out that we used the British spelling of the word "specter." I must have been feeling fancy the day I drew this one.

While researching Tuesday's panel, I discovered that the familiar Three Musketeers bar was given its name because the original 1932 package included three small bars: one each of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavor. I'd have called it a Neapolitan.

Understanding this gag requires a general familiarity with the Alexandre Dumas novel, which is no stretch for Bizarro's highly literate readership.

Be sure to pick up a tube of Super K2 adhesive for all of your vandalism needs.

True fact: In 2008, a Finnish tourist was fined $17,000 for chipping an earlobe off one of the iconic Easter Island statues, and was banned from returning for three years.

A footnote on an adjacent stone tablet reads, "The earlier explorer didn't need a magnifying glass."

When life gives you leeches...

Mea Maxima Culpa
For each daily Bizarro gag, I create four separate files to upload to the syndicate for distribution: I do the panel and strip layouts for both full color and black & white printing.

Thanks to a reader from Houston who posted on Facebook, I was made aware of an error in Friday's black & white strip as it appeared in the Houston Chronicle.
Apparently, when I removed the color layer to make the grayscale file, I neglected to replace the red lettering on the sign with solid black lettering.
This is how it should have appeared:
I offer sincere apologies to all readers in Houston, and anyone else whose paper runs the black & white strip. I realize that sometimes a gag may cause confusion, but for those who were scratching their heads on Friday because they didn't get the joke, it wasn't your fault.

My thanks go out to Mark Rogerson of Houston for bringing this to my attention. Going forward, before I send off the weekly files, I'll stop to do one more "idiot check."

The lettering may have turned white, but my face is still red.

Now, back to the final gag for the week.

Saturday's panel predicts a trend in rooftop bar design. 

This is my first pirate-themed cartoon that doesn't actually depict a pirate.
Print readers whose papers run the strip version of Bizarro had to rotate the page by 90 degrees, but through the miracle of the internet, you can view it normally here. 

This is the second time since I took over the dailies that I've done a sideways strip. The other one appeared during my first month on the job.

Mad Magazine's legendary fold-in artist, Al Jaffee, did a vertical comic strip called Tall Tales, which ran from 1957 to 1962. Mister Jaffee, who created more than 400 fold-ins, is still with us (and still drawing!) at age 98.

Don't forget to check out Dan Piraro's blog, and see what he has to say about this week's gags, and to marvel at his latest Bizarro Sunday page.

Oh, and let us know about your Halloween traditions in the comments section.

Bonus Track

Ronnie Cook & the Gaylords: The Goo Goo Muck

This is one of my all-time favorite Halloween tunes, and it was a staple here in Pittsburgh, thanks to our wildest DJ, Mad Mike Metro

Mad Mike introduced us to tons of obscure and crazy sounds, up until his passing on Halloween, 2000.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Tasty Newsprint

A few days ago, I ventured outside of Bizarro Studios North and traveled to nearby Greensburg, PA, to see the Westmoreland Museum's current exhibit, Era of Cool: The Art of John Van Hammersveld.
Van Hammersveld has been working as a designer, illustrator, art director, typographer, and muralist for nearly 60 years, and it's likely that you have an example of his work somewhere in your home. In addition to designing the iconic movie poster for The Endless Summer in 1964, and many early psychedelic gig posters, he's responsible for over 300 LP covers, including Magical Mystery Tour and Exile on Main Street.

The Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators arranged for a group of members to attend an artist's reception at the museum, where we also saw a short documentary on JVH, Crazy World Ain't It.
JVH (in hat) with members of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators
Photo: Nancy Flury Carlson
Van Hammersveld graciously autographed posters, prints, and record covers, including my copy of a 1970 album by the novelty duo, The Pipkins.
He was surprised to see this, and apparently doesn't have a copy in his collection, because he snapped a couple photos for himself. Before heading to the event, I listened to the record, which I hadn't in over a decade. That should hold me for at least the next ten years. Great cover art, though.

Now, let's see what foolishness we unleashed on an unsuspecting world over the past week.

Of course, we all know that comics are the equal of classic literature, right?
I referred to a scan of a comics page dated February 6, 1970 to lend authenticity to the drawing.

I had a dream recently about buying something at a store where the cashier and counter were eight feet above floor level, and I had to climb a ladder to complete the transaction. Upon waking, I thought of the caption, but realized that such a scene would be tricky to draw (particularly for the strip layout), so I came up with this gag instead.

This practitioner decided on home schooling, since the college where he initially applied requires students to be current on their vaccinations. He apparently made the right choice, based on his stellar GPA.

The odd, reverse "L" shape of the panel art required a fair amount of shuffling to format the gag in its strip form, but it reads a little better in the end.

The three most important factors to consider when buying a home are location, location, and proximity to brains.

As we ease into October, and approach Halloween, expect several additional monstrous gags in this space. 

When hunting for treasure, you can't overlook any lead. This panel illustrates how well cats adapt to their human companions.

Coffee shops are prime spots to view all manner of live theater. Not long ago at a local cafe, I saw a piece of performance art that could have been titled Chest-Bumping Résumés. I'd like to thank the cast for helping me write Saturday's gag.

For even more sparkling comics commentary, check out Dan Piraro's blog, where he shares his thoughts on the latest batch, and unveils his latest widescreen Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

I cannot in good conscience share a video of The Pipkins, for fear of triggering a fatal earworm in one of our valued readers. Instead, here's a perky little ode to coffee, arranged by guitar great Billy Mure.

Mure was a prolific composer, arranger, and session musician, who released a series of wild instrumental albums in the late 1950s: Super-Sonic Guitars in Hi-Fi, Supersonic Guitars, Supersonics in Flight, and Supersonic Guitars Volume II.
Billy Mure, in an undated photo, probably from the 1950s
I've owned this record for years, but just noticed that it was produced and co-written by Sascha Burland, who's another fascinating character. Burland made a living writing jingles for commercials, but he loved jazz music. Shortly after the Chipmunks became popular, Burland formed a rival recording act called the Nutty Squirrels. Burland's Squirrels records also featured double-speed vocals, but instead of covering pop hits, they did vocal versions of Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker tunes. They'll probably appear on this blog at some point.