Saturday, December 05, 2020

Surprise Package

Another week in Our Pandemic Year is behind us, and that means we've got six new cartoons to revisit. 

Also, we're cooking up a little treat to celebrate the end of this annus horribilis, which I'll discuss a little later.

But first I'd like to show off my favorite low-tech office equipment.

The round brass doodad on the right is a Möbius + Ruppert pencil sharpener, along with a box of replacement blades and a recently-retired pencil. I've ditched two or three electric sharpeners over the years because they fractured the cores of my colored pencils, which are a key part of my cartooning process. This spectacularly simple tool produces a perfect point, and allows the pencil to be sharpened down to its last usable millimeter of pigment.

Sorry for the rhapsodizing. I do love this sharpener.

Now, let's review the drawings we published this past week.

In my mind's ear, the headmaster's voice sounds like John Cleese or Michael Palin.

Grant Wood's American Gothic has been parodied countless times since he painted in in 1930, so it was satisfying to come up with (what we believe to be) a fresh take on the subject. He was forty years ahead of the fashion industry.

Wednesday's panel salutes the ancient Roman Everyplebe with a quiet gag. I was happy with the character's contented facial expression, which a regular reader described as "pleasantly buzzed."

Thursday's premise is a tiny exaggeration of the technological impossibilities regularly seen in crime dramas. This trope reached a peak in the 1982 film Blade Runner, which was set in the then-future year of 2019.

In the extended director's cut of this gag, the forensics tech soaked the printed photo in tea, crumbled it slightly, and frayed the edges to simulate thirty years of aging.

I've mentioned before that I often use television nature documentaries viewed at low volume to quiet my brain and prevent insomnia. A few months back, I drifted off to David Attenborough's film, Hummingbirds: Jewelled Messengers, and the next day, wrote a hummingbird gag.

I do a lot of cartoons about clowns, but I don't think clown videos would work as sleep aids.  

In an example of coincidental timing, this comic ran less than a week after Dan Piraro blogged about an aspect of his investment planning. I wouldn't recommend putting your savings into plush toys, but I hope the idea at least paid a dividend of humor.

Thanks for checking in, and don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog to see what mischief he's been up to, and check out his latest glorious Bizarro Sunday page.

Now, about that treat for the new year.

To mark the close of the 21st Century's crappiest year, Bizarro Studios will introduce a new Secret Symbol on January 1, 2021.

We'll reveal exactly what it is a few days before its official debut. In the meantime, we'd love to see your guesses, suggestions, or completely wrong crackpot theories in the form of images posted to Instagram or Twitter, using the hashtag #BizarroSymbol2021.

Who knows, there may be a prize or two awarded.

Bonus Track

Cheryl's Going Home
John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett
BBC Television, 1977

While working this week, I listened to a podcast called, Cor Baby, That's Really Me! - Rock and Roll's Greatest Failure, based on John Otway's autobiography, and read by the author.

Otway is a classic British eccentric, or what his fellow citizens would call a "nutter." He was convinced from a young age that he was destined to be a star, despite having no known talent, at least in the conventional sense. He's always had an abundance of optimism, dogged persistence, and a willingness to create his own opportunities. Plus, he's a hilarious storyteller.

This video is from 43 years ago this month, December 1977. Otway appeared on the BBC program, The Old Grey Whistle Test, with his on-again off-again (ad infinitum) partner, Wild Willy Barrett. Near the end of the song, Otway jumped onto Barrett's amp, which was atop a PA monitor, knocking over the equipment, and injuring his most delicate bodily parts. He continued anyway, in true show biz fashion, although he momentarily forgot the lyrics, only to have them shouted in his ear by Willy.


Many Otway & Barrett records hold a place of honor in the vinyl archives here at Bizarro Studios North. Last year, the duo recorded a new version of their first LP, live and direct to disc - the audio signal went straight from their mics to the needle cutting the master. 

They performed each side in a single continuous take, pausing for a few seconds between songs to allow for gaps between tracks on the vinyl pressing.

Otway & Barrett double LP reissue
Photo courtesy Bizarro Studios North


  1. My guess for the new secret symbol = The COVID virus covered with curing antibodies.

  2. Thanks for the track. I'm an old Bob Lind fan, "Cheryl's Going Home" is an old favorite - - and not just because it is a train song, or B-side to "Elusive Butterfly."

  3. Any other way to submit ideas & guesses when readers are broke, accidental Luddites with no way to communicate to the mighty reaches of I-Gram or Tweetville? (Keep up the great work, and thanks to you and Dan for all the fun, chuckles, and music!)

    1. Feel free to leave a comment here.

      And thank for the kind words!

  4. You have the cylinder covered with The Dynamite of Boom. Could it be we have other basic shapes ahead such as triangles/pyramids and/or circles/spheres? Then again, given 2020, I would not be surprised if we see (cough) new secret symbols such as very thick eyeglasses with which to NOT read Constitutional parchment scrolls scattered about in the frame... or rolls of the euphemistically vague "bath tissue." Maybe stethoscopes (named Mensa Testers)? Out-of-control orange hairpieces (called the Hell Toupee)? More of the "wait here please" foot markers on the floor (tagged Covid Dance Steps)? Gee, this year been such an ongoing knee to the groin in so many ways, the new SS (wait - let's shorten that abbreviation to SecSym, in a uni-syllabic salute to American English's direction toward minimalistic grunt-speak) could be almost anything from the red cross (easy to draw) and caduceus (EZ NoMo) to speechifying politicians (inactive, save for shooting off their mouths to no-one in particular) to small Claymore mines (they go "pop" and reveal the message, "If you weren't an anti-science nincompoop, you'd be cured by now!"). Better stop now before I get too dark ("Too late!" you yell?) OK, one more, in an attempt to make this worthwhile: How about a calendar, of any sort, with its page open to (or date circled) January 20th - the numerically-significant-seeming 1/20/2021... a date which will live in dignity! Keep the giggles flowing! Peace.

  5. [Follow-up comment to Wayno as a sidebar from previous post: I know The Eyeball of Observation has circles/spheres covered off, but it may be fun to hide other circles/spheres around, like a crystal ball or three - pawnshop style - or solo, no?) The Crown of Power has some cyclinder-triangle aspects (or even square/triangle aspects), ubt was envisioning the errant pyramid or two showing up here and there in the landscape / on signs / as paintings, etc. Anyhoo - thanks again for the idea-exchange opportunity. Hope you will long carry on the Torch of Humor (another new one?) without getting burned, and happily lug The Baton of Philosophy (yeegads, they're self-replicating now!) towards the truncated-pyramid-eye (another Secret Symbol?), which is The Sign of Cosmic Understanding. Then again, who among us couldn't do without some healing, via The Victrola of Calm... or the Ice Bag of Cool Logic? - Cheers! ]

  6. [Wayno: My humble apologies for another add-on side-note. It appears that once one begins thinking of Secret Symbols, it is difficult to stop. I'll quit, right after thie third-time's-the-charm comment, which is also the name of another one: The Third Charm (lucky) when used well, and The Three-card Monte when ill-used and abused. (As they say: "If you can’t spot the con, you’re the mark." I can think of no better symbol for the last four inane and insane years than a Plethora/Plague of Pinocchios... except for the 2020 itself, which could easily be represented by the tragic and ungainly Blindfolded Jester (or jest, eh, just the Jester's Cap of Willful Ignorance) of Leadership and Justice. In order to not appear too negative or blighted and blinkered by the pestilence that is this year: A last suggestion is that one can find rampant hordes of new Secret Symbols sprinkled all over the landscape, like diamonds on neatly-kept lawns in summer, among the works of Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain. One could do far worse than The Jumping Frog (ribbet) of Calaveras County and/or The Books of Bokonon (Pool-pah! Foma!) as Secret Symbols. - Wishing you Joy and Hope (the human qualities or, barring local availability, the nationally-franchised fan-dancers instead. : ) Cheers!

  7. New secret symbol? How about a pretzel? ...just to remind us all how twisted you guys are!

  8. I think it will be a flaming pile of sh**. :-) Judging from what Dan said on his blog. 'Twould be most appropriate.

  9. For your new Secret Symbol I'd be a proponent of a saucepan about to boil over!

  10. A top hat or cowboy hat in honor of Peyote Cowboy would be cool. Cheers!

  11. as you and 6 million other humor mongers have spent several years roasting the (t)rump,, perhaps,,
    the new secret symbol should be a rump roast ;-)