Saturday, December 28, 2019

Year-End Closeout

Although this is our final dispatch of the year, you can rest assured that we'll be back in 2020 with daily offerings of words and pictures, followed by weekly ramblings for those who care to hear even more from us.

Here's the latest batch of amusing quadrilaterals, with superfluous explanations and commentary from the author.

Our underworld executive seems to be pleased with the PR firm's recommendation. It's certainly worked in the past.

We realize that the Earth's South Pole is located on Antarctica, and is even colder than the planet's North Pole. Our character gained his saintly nickname based on behavior and wardrobe, rather than geographic location. He's Santa's polar opposite, so to speak.

Wednesday's panel generated a bumper crop of comments reflecting what I'll simply refer to as a wide variety of interpretations and assumptions. All I will add is, if this fellow's reputation is legit, he'd have a sense of humor about himself.

This is what's commonly referred to as an achievable goal.

As usual, we put our favorite gag of the week in the Friday slot. I liked this one because it appears that there's nothing unusual happening, and what's going on only becomes clear after the reader processes the image and words, making a surprising connection.
We think the strip layout works pretty well, too, and it might even take an additional beat for the gag to be revealed.

Polly would also like a smear of liver pate on that cracker.

We at Bizarro Studios North send our best wishes to all readers who celebrate holidays of any kind at this time of year, or no holiday at all.

I'm celebrating the completion of my second full year as the daily Bizarro cartoonist. I am grateful for every reader, for the support of my wonderful spouse, and for the fact that Dan Piraro continues to do the Sunday cartoon.

Working on the comic, and sharing it with the world continues to be a rich educational experience. One of the many things I've learned is, if the first word of a posted comment is "actually," I can probably skip the rest of it.

Seriously, I'm continually impressed with Bizarro's readers. Every comment is appreciated--even the ones I end up deleting.

Thanks to every one of you for following along on this journey. I hope you'll stick with us in the coming years.

Don't forget to check out Dan Piraro's blog for his latest Sunday page, and closing comments on 2019.

Cartoon Imitates Life

Our December 19 comic resonated with David, a Bizarro reader from Minnesota, who told us that he rigged up a modified artificial tree when a cat named Walter joined their family five years ago.

David was kind enough to share this photo of Walter and the tree.
David writes:
This is Walter trying to figure out how to get up the tree just after the inaugural installation. The tree is the top of a full-size artificial tree. It is mounted to a five foot piece of 4" PVC pipe. The pipe is braced and anchored to the floor with screws through the base plate and carpet, grabbing into the sub-floor plywood.

The next morning Walter climbed to the top of the furniture just out of the frame to the left, and launched himself into the tree. We had to move the furniture. That was five years ago and he still tries to get up there.
He is way too smart, athletic, and bored. A bad combination.
Sincere thanks to David for sharing the photo and story. Walter sounds like a cat with loads of personality.

Bonus Track?

For my year-end post, I'm not including a musical selection. 

Instead, I invite you to share a link to one of your favorite tunes.

Whether your choose something that relates in some way to one of this week's cartoons, or if it's just a song you think I'd enjoy, I look forward to hearing what you recommend.

As my good friend Tim Wolfson of The Corncrib Bar says, "Music improves the human condition," and we should all welcome some improvement in that area.

Thanks again. See you in 2020.

Saturday, December 21, 2019


Today, Saturday, December 21, is the Winter Solstice. In ancient Rome, the Feast of Saturnalia celebrated solstice and honored the god of agricultural bounty with a week of feasting, debauchery, and gift exchanges, much like today's December festivities.

Those of us experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder can take heart in the knowledge that after the Winter Solstice, daylight hours begin to lengthen.

Let's recap the pre-solstice selection of Bizarro cartoons, and hope that next week's are a little brighter.

We at Bizarro Studios are supporting a congressional bill requiring that for every actor who publishes a children's book, Hollywood must give a cartoonist the lead role in a movie.

If this were a real game, I could imagine enjoying it enough to play one or two rounds, but not enough to dedicate any basement floor space to it.  
This was my first attempt at a comic using the caption, which I immediately rejected as being unworkable, and not very funny. Before today's blog post, no one outside the studio has seen this sketch, and you can probably understand why.

Their relationship is evolving...
At best, it might slow them down.

Friday's panel is my favorite of the week, for a couple of reasons. The gag itself takes an extra beat or two to reveal itself, even with the words "witness" and "protection" in the text, which is satisfying to a cartoonist.

I was also pleased with the placement of the Secret Symbols in this one. My editor at King Features, and even Dan Piraro himself had trouble finding one of them. They both contacted me to see if I'd over-counted.

Although I'm too old to have been spied on by that damn Elf on the Shelf, I still managed to develop a healthy sense of paranoia. Kids today just have things handed to them.

Don't forget to ride your digital sleigh over to Dan Piraro's blog, where you'll receive the gift of another  magnificent Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

I suppose it's okay to share a Christmas song now. Here's a pretty unusual one.

Sun Ra (1914-1993) left behind a large body of brilliantly bizarre music, spread out over more than 125 LPs. He claimed to have traveled to the planet Saturn sometime in the 1930s. Although he's usually thought of as a jazz composer, musician, and bandleader, his record label, El Saturn, also released quite a few rhythm & blues and doo-wop records, including this oddball holiday tune. 

On this session, Sun Ra plays harmonium along with a mysterious group musicians and singers identified only as The Qualities.

Enjoy. Let's chat again before the New Year.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Sweet Idiocy

We're approaching the end of 2019, which will mark the close of my second year as Bizarro's daily cartoonist. With the first 600-plus cartoons in the rear-view mirror, I'm ready to accelerate into 2020.

Actually, because of our deadline schedule, I've already completed and uploaded the first several weeks of 2020. So, we have fresh gags in the warehouse, ready to deliver to your screens, or, for those whose cities still have them, daily newspapers.

Speaking of papers, as the newsprint biz continues to oxidize and crumble, we were heartened to learn that Bizarro is now carried by The Microsoft Network, so we'll soon be popping up anywhere among MSN's many sites, portals, and apps.

Here's a look at our most recent offerings.

The week started with the latest in our long-running (or never-ending) series of clown-based gags.
The strip layout gave me more space to exaggerate the length of the protagonist's coiffure.
I normally draw the original art for the standard vertical panel layout, and figure out how to make it strip much later in the process. In this case, I planned ahead and turned my Bristol paper sideways to extend the drawing. I believe this is the first time I consciously planned the strip layout at this early stage.

I'd like to try out a session in a sensory deprivation tank sometime. This office lets patients dip a toe into the salinated water before going into full-on darkness and silence.

Bivalves are apparently adept at reading their partners' nonverbal messages. 

As with the oysters above, I enjoyed drawing the ant as realistically as my capabilities allow. When I look at this one, in my head I hear the pet making an excited clicking sound as it awaits its treat.

I know, cartoonists are weird.
My initial sketch was slightly different. I liked the image of people nonchalantly accepting a giant insect as a domestic pet, but I felt it could be improved if I worked at it a little more.
This revision added the funny-sounding word "thorax," but we weren't quite satisfied with it yet. Finally, we came up with the idea that an ant might be appealing as a pet because it's hairless, and ran with that.

This pup is responsible for one of those new designer breeds after mating with a Goldie Retriever.

This isn't the first time Bizarro tweaked the popular Jack Russell Terrier. This panel ran six years ago, and referenced an actor from an earlier era.

I could claim that my gag is a callback to the 2013 panel, but honestly, I'd forgotten about the earlier one until Dan Piraro recently reminded me. I suspect there are many other possible Russell Terrier breeds waiting to be identified. Feel free to add yours in the comments.

I'm not sure whether this qualifies as a second clown gag of the week, but certainly jesters are at least related to clowns. 

Incidentally, that little scepter resembling its owner is called a marotte. It would be kind of cool to see these become a fad, with all sorts of people carrying around small effigies of themselves. Get on it, kids!

Be sure to take a look at Dan Piraro's blog, for even more behind-the-scenes discussion, and to see what he's come up with for his latest Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

"How Sweet to be an Idiot"
by Neil Innes 

from the TV series The Innes Book of Records

Monday, December 9, was the 75th birthday of one of my musical and comedic heroes, Neil Innes. This is the title song from his first solo album, released in 1973.

Neil was co-leader of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, beginning in the 1960s. The Bonzos famously appeared in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour film, performing their song "Death Cab for Cutie."

If you're a Bizarro reader, there's a good chance you've heard some of Neil's music. He worked with the Monty Python troupe, and wrote the original songs for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He also wrote the music for The Rutles, and appeared in the special All You Need is Cash, along with Eric Idle, as members of the "Pre-fab Four."

As a teenager, I was such a fan, that I made a duck hat like Neil's after I spotted a "Quacksie" plastic pull toy in a store and recognized that it was what he used to create his signature headpiece.
Sometime in the 1980s, I read in a fan club newsletter that during a Canadian Python tour, Neil's duck had disappeared, along with most of the group's wardrobe. I contacted Neil through the club, and sent him my duck, which I believe he still has to this day. Later, I received a very gracious note of thanks, along with an assortment of photos, posters, and other memorabilia, which are among my most treasured possessions.

Somewhere, perhaps at my parents' house, there's a photo of me wearing the duck. If I ever run across it, I'll certainly share it.

Monday, December 09, 2019

War and Pekoe

I must first apologize for the tardy blog post. I normally publish on Saturdays, but last weekend was unusually busy here at Bizarro Studios North. I've been working overtime in an attempt creep a little further ahead of deadline, so I can relax with family and friends over the holidays. 

I spent most of Saturday getting ready for the annual holiday gig by my musical group, The Red Beans & Rice Combo.
L-R: Dave Klug, Wayno, special guest Rick Sebak, Tom Roberts
The show was a lot of fun, despite
a brief intermission to repair the bass drum pedal. Dave, our percussionist, improvised a fix using a metal clip from an equipment case and after reassembling the pedal, he sounded even better than before.

Now, let's review last week's cartoon  activities.

A surprising number of people (including my comic partner Dan Piraro) told me that they've long referred to the familiar retailer by this name. It's an appropriate moniker, given the fact that its retired billionaire co-founder supports our own domestic dictator's bid for another term of constitution-burning.

Instead of addressing his intentionally poor performance, this kid is attacking the teacher's credentials. Where could he have learned such a tactic?

Wednesday's gag illustrates the expression "unclear on the concept."

Corporate decision-making is all about weighing alternatives and evaluating trade-offs.

I share my cartoons on a few social media platforms, and reactions to this one indicated that Facebook users were more likely to understand the literary reference and the connection to reading tea leaves than Instagram readers. I'm not sure what to make of this data point, it's simply an observation.

Saturday saw a return to simple, jokey wordplay, riffing on two meanings of the word "idle." My car has a gas-saving feature which turns off the engine when the vehicle is stopped. Maybe that's why I never get invited to bank robberies.

Readers whose newspapers publish the strip version of Bizarro saw only three secret symbols, instead of the four visible in the panel configuration. Only those with X-ray vision found the K2 symbol hidden behind the caption box.

Be sure to check out Dan Piraro's blog. His latest Sunday page is brilliant and timely, and it prompted an unusual amount of heated commentary.

Thanks for continuing to follow Bizarro, online and in your local newspaper, assuming it's still in business. See you on Saturday with more of this sort of thing.

Bonus Track

"Fortune Teller"
Performed by the composer, Allen Toussaint

This is a favorite song here at BSN, first recorded by New Orleans R&B singer Benny Spellman in 1962.