Saturday, April 25, 2020

This Wheel's on Fire

I was scheduled to get a haircut today, but social distancing requirements put the kibosh on that, for the second month in a row. I may have to resort to Willie Nelson braids if we remain in isolation much longer.

What was I up to while hunkering down? Cranking out another batch of cartoon foolishness, the same as every other week. Here's the latest pile for your amusement.

The ultimate small plate dining experience.

Tuesday's comic hit home with many Bizarro readers, as do a lot of our gags featuring cats or dogs. I'm glad to know that a significant portion of our readership are animal lovers. Here at Bizarro Studios North, we share our space with two feline companions, or more accurately, they share their space with us. Begrudgingly.

The greater achievement was designing boxer shorts, trousers, and a lab coat to accommodate their luxuriant tails.

Thursday's panel was foreshadowed by a gag from last week. Actually, after drawing the earlier one, we realized we could squeeze out a separate tattoo joke. This provided an opportunity to place a bunch of Secret Symbols in the background.
With some shuffling, we managed to fit all ten symbols into the strip layout.

As readers of this blog know, I slot what I consider to be the week's strongest gag for Friday. This week I repeatedly swapped the skunk and caveman panels before settling on the final sequence. I decided that the gag depicting the first hot rodder delivered its payoff in a more surprising manner, while the skunk cartoon was funny, but more straightforward. I awarded extra points for the weird logic in the cave gag.

I believe that this panel marks the first occurrence of an inverted cardinal (in both meanings) as a Secret Symbol.

I hope we provided a few laughs as a counterpoint to the weird and frightening state of the world this week. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog. He always offers additional insight and commentary, as well as his latest Sunday Bizarro page.

Bonus Track

The title of this week's post was taken from a song written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko. Over the years, it's been recorded by Dylan and the Band (who also did their own version), Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Byrds and even Kylie Minogue.

Julie Driscoll did a groovy psychedelic cover with Brian Auger and Trinity, which made the UK top five in 1968.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Poe Boy, Long Way from Home

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. Here's hoping you and your loved ones are safe and well as we negotiate these weird and unsettling times. 

We recently acquired a lovely and functional handcrafted face mask. The owner of my neighborhood coffee shop made these and sold them to raise money for the Pittsburgh Food Bank. I was delighted to find that she'd chosen one with a coffee bean pattern for me.
Thanks to Elizabeth B., a true local hero.

To accompany your morning coffee, or other beverage of choice, here's a review of the past week's Bizarro cartoons, for your amusement and/or indignation.
Monday's gag featured two figures associated with Easter encountering each other on the morning after. Bizarro World HQ received a few angry emails forbidding us from ever touching on this subject, but our CEO politely replied that other believers thought the cartoon was funny.

I saw one comment online describing the gag as "revolting blasphemy," but otherwise, it was well received. An old friend forwarded his pastor's weekly  newsletter, which included a photo of the cartoon snapped from their local paper.

I'd like to extend my thanks to Father Tom in Ohio for sharing the comic with his flock, and for maintaining a sense or humor about things he obviously takes seriously.

It's a little surprising that this form of immunotherapy isn't more common in vampire literature.

Wednesday's gag, written and drawn many weeks ago, was meant to run on the traditional income tax filing deadline date of April 15, but the coronavirus crisis has pushed it back. The good news is Bub has a job at least through mid-July.

Your cartoonist enjoyed drawing and coloring this gag mimicking 1930s animated cartoons, and imagining how the flying saucer and eyeball Secret Symbols might have looked in that context.

Friday's offering was freely adapted from an Edgar Allan Poe collection titled Tales of Mystery and Respiration. At least I think that's what is was called.

We wrapped up the week with a look at talent night in Frankenstein Village. The monster was known to be a fan of Patsy Cline.

Thanks for making Bizarro a part of your sheltering-in-place. We sincerely hope that we provide some much-needed laughter. Speaking of which, don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog, and check out his newest Sunday page.

Bonus Track

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Do You Hear Me?

We've apparently made it through another week. Once again, I hope that you and your families are safe and well.

With this weird, surreal, sometimes encouraging and often tragic week behind us, let's see if the latest Bizarro panels provided some comic relief.

Monday's gag seemed to resonate with parents who've been cooped up at home with their kids as the country self-isolates in an effort to slow the pandemic.

The image on the TV screen is based on an iconic scene from Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It's one of those rare comedies that ends with the nuclear annihilation of the entire planet.

I suppose that, for bombs, it's an inspirational movie.

Tuesday was pun-day here at Bizarro Studios North.

Betsy Ross (or at least the Betsy Ross of legend) prefigured the current maker culture by a couple of centuries. The story of the actual person (who worked as an upholsterer) sewing the first American flag seems to have been invented by her grandson nearly thirty-five years after her death.

I ran another anteater/restaurant gag in late March. While drawing that panel, the idea for this joke presented itself, and it appeared on Thursday. 

Is anyone else creeped out by that tongue dotted with poppy seeds?

We followed the ants on Thursday with a giant cockroach on Friday. The protagonist of Franz Kafka's novella awoke to find himself transformed into a cockroach, a beetle, or an unspecified "vermin." Many English translations use the word cockroach, and that's what usually enters the minds of English speakers who are familiar with the story.

I previously referenced The Metamorphosis in this panel from July, 2018.
In that week's post, I recalled my introduction to Kakfa's literature at an  impressionable age.

Saturday's panel could be a direct transcript of an Executive Compensation Committee meeting at any large American company.

Thanks for sticking with us for another week. Don't forget to check out Dan Piraro's weekly blog, to see what he has to say about these gags, and to view his Easter Sunday offering.

Bonus Track

Among the many people we lost during the past week were one of the greatest cartoonists of all time, an iconic American songwriter, and Hal Willner, a music producer with an insatiable curiosity, and a talent for bringing together unlikely performers to create surprising and beautiful collaborations.

One Mr. Willner's early projects was Stay Awake, a collection of songs that originated in vintage Disney films. It's one of those recordings I have to listen to front to back, with no skipping and no shuffling.

This is the closing section, a medley of themes from Pinocchio. Ken Nordine's narration on the "Desolation Theme" is haunting, and Ringo Starr's vocal performance of "When You Wish Upon a Star" can bring tears to the eyes of a cynical Disney-hater like yours truly.

Bonus Track 2

Rather than end on a purely sentimental note, let's hear something showing Hal Willner's wacky, experimental side. It's my favorite selection from his 1998 album, Whoops, I'm an Indian, and it features an inspiring vocal performance by Jack Webb. Enjoy.


Saturday, April 04, 2020

April Foolishness

If nothing else, we've had a productive work week here at Bizarro Studios North. I'm now almost three months ahead of publication. Even so, I miss seeing friends, visiting our favorite local restaurants, kibitzing at a monthly lunch gathering of cartoonists, and spending Wednesdays rehearsing with my musical collaborators.

Speaking of being ahead of deadlines, please be kind to syndicated cartoonists when a gag comes up that seems insensitive in light of the current situation. We're all currently working on comics that will be published at least six weeks from now, and we have no idea what will be going on in the world.
Rhymes With Orange cartoonist Rina Piccolo published a thoughtful blog post on this topic, and said it much better than I could.

With that in mind, let's review this week's funnies.

It's probably time to reassess the ranking of history's worst chief executives, and Russia's first Tsar is campaigning for a revised nickname.

Tuesday's cartoon sparked a few responses from people who bend what they read to fit their particular obsessions. This usually happens when a comic features  biblical characters, with self-styled scholars all too eager to explain what really happened. The gag here is simple: a giant, rampaging clown in the familiar King Kong scenario, being reported on by a blasé newsreader. However, some folks latched onto the word "governor," and concluded that the comic was meant to depict some individual public figure as an angry clown, which gave them an excuse to expound on their political peeves. It's a shame they missed a non-ideological laugh. 

As an observer of human absurdity I do find these responses to be amusing.

Speaking of obsessions, here's yet another gag with music as its inspiration. I followed the Bizarro April Fools' Day tradition of placing a false Secret Symbol count next to the signature, just like last year.

This time, I took it further and listed a different incorrect in each version of the comic (color panel, color strip, black & white panel, and black & white strip). All four are shown in my recent post on the King Features Bizarro blog.

Mother Earp was touched by the attention from her sons. For any historians out there, we realize that there were eight participants in the actual shootout. This cartoon was modeled on the dress rehearsal, which only included the Earps and the Clanton boys.

I must admit that I was pleased with the absurdist, paradoxical, circular logic in Friday's gag. This character impulsively got a full-chest tattoo, but had the foresight to plan for a time when he tired of it.

What beverage goes well with gingerbread?

Thanks for sticking with us through another week of hunkering down. I hope  you're all safe and healthy, and that we were able to provide some comic relief this week.

Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog, to check out his latest Sunday page, and read more about this batch of cartoons.

Bonus Track

Since we featured musical snakes, I decided to share a recording by the late Phillip Lithman, a/k/a Snakefinger (1949-1987).

This 1986 track features Snakefinger and his band interpreting Nino Rota's music from the film 8 1/2. I was lucky enough to see Snakefinger perform live with The Residents, and a few times with his own band. He was a fine musician, and a friendly and kind human being.

Parting Thought

I stand with Flea.