Saturday, May 09, 2020

Thrifty, Brave, Clean, & Flammable

Last week's dung beetle beetle cartoon triggered an angry response from a reader we pushed to the breaking point.
Comics are supposed to be cute, funny, entertaining, not gross and disgusting as yours are. Why you are allowed on the comics page or even in the paper at all is a total mystery to me. I've kept my silence for a long, long, time but today's "comic" strip was the last straw. It and you are disgusting and revolting and should be banned from the papers. It's obvious that your strip mirrors your dark, sick mind. I think it's time to get a petition started to take you out and bring back entertaining comics.
I never expected such a rant in response to a juvenile but harmless gag. I composed a reply, but decided not to send it. In many cases, when readers are upset by a cartoon, I'll write back and explain my motivations and intent, and quite often the outcome is amiable. In this case, it was apparent there'd be no point in engaging with this person who had apparently been stewing over Bizarro for "a long, long time."

I'm sure the same writer has rules for what every film, book, and painting is supposed to be as well. I'm guessing he's also certain that every meal should consist of well-done steak drowning in ketchup.

I was equally surprised, not to mention delighted, to see the comic shared on Facebook by multi-talented actor, voice performer, and comedian Philip Proctor. Mister Proctor is one of my heroes of humor, thanks to his work with the Firesign Theatre. I've been a fan since my high school days, and the Firesign Theatre were a formative influence on my sense of the absurd. I highly recommend Proctor's memoir, Where's My Fortune Cookie?
Philip Proctor with Firesign colleague Peter Bergman
Let's see what offensive material we unleashed on our readership this week.
I can recall the day I was drawing this gag, thanks to this Facebook memory.
My cartooning colleague Dave Blazek, creator of Loose Parts, noted similarities between the staging of our respective panels on Monday. He sent this photo from the comics page of the Philadelphia Inquirer, where Bizarro and Loose Parts are neighbors.
Dave's characters observed proper social distancing, while my robots had sanitzed their metallic surfaces before posing for the drawing.
By the way, Dave and I are both nominees for the National Cartoonists Society's annual Reuben Award in the newspaper panels division, along with Off the Mark cartoonist Mark Parisi. I'm honored to be named alongside these two colleagues.

Surprisingly, this one didn't prompt any hate mail.

My initial sketch of Wednesday's gag showed Peter Parker in plainclothes, with just a glimpse of his Spider-Man suit.
I liked his facial expression, but we ultimately decided that it might not be clear who the character is supposed to be. The red suit would be obvious when printed in color, but as a small black & white newspaper panel, it would be difficult to make out.

The final version, showing the full superhero costume, relies on the character's body language to show his eagerness for approval, which is satisfying in its own way.

After it was published, I wished I had used the word "extruded" instead of "spun," but that's a minor regret.

Thursday's panel is an outtake from the TV series Insects and the City.

Someone's hoping to get a Fire Safety merit badge.

The customer is displaying a valuable antique sheet of Zip-A-Tone shading film.
 He may have been inspired by Ernie Bushmiller's Sluggo.
I wrote an early version of this gag back in 2007, when I spent several months submitting cartoons to The New Yorker. I never managed to get one published, which was probably wise of their cartoon editor. However, as a result of multiple drop-offs to the Art Department, I did an illustration for the magazine, so I at least achieved New Yorker footnote status.

Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog. Dan always has something interesting to say about the week's comics (as well as the week's news), and reveals his latest panoramic Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track
Johnny "Hammond" Smith: Brother John

While I draw, I usually have music playing in my workspace. This week, I was listening to a lot of mid- to late-1960s soul jazz albums. It felt appropriate to include a track from
Johnny "Hammond" Smith's The Stinger, with its superhero cover art.

The credit line in the lower left corner reads, "Design/Pop Art: Don Schlitten."

Schlitten, born in 1932, was a prolific jazz record producer. For ten years, he was president of Prestige Records (who released The Stinger), and was also art director (both designer and photographer), in charge of album covers. Music nerd speculation posits that the cover image was appropriated from a Green Lantern comic book panel, and, nervous about possible lawsuits, Schlitten changed the costume from green to red and made the brown-haired hero a blond.


  1. The reader's comment is epic. Apparently someone who didn't grow up reading Mad magazine.

  2. I look forward to the Bazarro that depicts a poop-tart as an especially friendly female beetle.

  3. You did a beautiful job on Spiderman's body language. 👏👏👏

  4. Wow! Nice shout out from Phillip Proctor. Takes me back to my college years in the dorms, listening to Firesign Theater on the LPs. Thanks for the flashback.
    I do have one question, however. I notice you never give your cats whiskers, which I find a bit disconcerting. Why is that?

    1. Hmmm, you’re right. I just scrolled through the archives, and most of my cats are whiskerless.

      Whiskers aren’t difficult to draw, but in real life they’re super-fine and nearly invisible. When drawing a cat character, whiskers on the side of the muzzle facing the “camera” can get in the way of their mouth of the facial expression, so I’ll often just hint at them with small dots.

      I appreciate your attention to detail, and that you’re a fellow Firesign aficionado.

  5. More Sugar! That's priceless.

    1. I was so surprised and flattered to see that post.