Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Hilarity of Images

Happy Boxing Day, Jazz Pickles! On this beloved holiday, we're pleased to reveal Bizarro's newest Secret Symbol, The Pipe of Ambiguity.

The Pipe of Ambiguity, Established 2021, ©Bizarro Studios

Dan Piraro began sprinkling odd little symbols into Bizarro comics in the mid-1990s. I believe the latest addition was O2 (Olive Oyl) in 2017. The first one may have been the Inverted Bird, but details are murky.

On January 1, 2021, The Pipe of Ambiguity will join the roster of Secret Symbols. Dan and I agreed that it would be a fun way to continue to leave my mark on Bizarro as I begin my fourth year (!) of doing the daily comics. Since we're both fans of surrealist art, René Magritte's famous pipe seemed to be a good fit.

I've been quietly dropping the pipe into the comic for a while, but haven't counted it in the secret symbol tally. It made its first unofficial appearance in the May 5, 2018 strip, but not the panel version.
It's on the medical chart on the far left side of the comic.

The pipe's roots go back to this 2010 panel, which directly references Magritte.
We also hinted at its arrival in the above comic from November of this year. Dan has also drawn the pipe in a few recent Sunday pages.
While we were planning the introduction of the new symbol, I discovered a long-forgotten pre-Bizarro artifact in my studio.
Many years ago, I had a non-comics office job, and trudged through every workday bored, bitter, and angry. At one point, I spent an entire week in a windowless conference room with a dozen other unfortunate souls, receiving some sort of training that never stuck in my head. On the second or third day of this ordeal, I discovered a roll of masking tape on the table, and absentmindedly began tearing off small pieces and sticking them together. When quitting time finally arrived, I noticed that I'd fashioned the bits of tape into a pipe-like shape. This "automatic sculpture" was completed without any conscious effort or design on my part. Apparently, my brain was already marinating in Magritte's influence. It finally found an outlet on the funny pages.

Here's a preview of the description that will be added to the Secret Symbols page on

The Pipe of Ambiguity honors surrealist artist René Magritte (1898-1967), a figure of inspiration at Bizarro Studios. His 1929 painting, The Treachery of Images, embodies Bizarro's comic aesthetic. It shows a pipe floating above the words Ceci n'est pas une pipe, French for This is not a pipe.


Magritte was fascinated by the interplay of words and images, and in 1913 he published an illustrated essay exploring these relationships. The article included a drawing of a person speaking via word balloon, revealing him to be a surrealist who also used the language of the cartoonist.


The pipe reminds us to question our assumed perceptions of reality, and to remain open to higher meanings, or  "the bigger picture."


Certification Note: Appearances of the pipe prior to January 1, 2021 were unofficial, and were not counted in Bizarro Secret Symbol tallies.


Jazz Pickle Awareness Activity


Make a drawing of the pipe on an index card. Fold the card in half, with the drawing on the inside, and carry it with you in a wallet or pocket. To end any conversation not sufficiently surreal to hold your attention, produce the card, show it to the other person and exclaim, "This is a portrait of René Magritte." 


But don't take up smoking.


We received many correct guesses, as well as some wonderfully creative suggestions as to what the symbol should be. The names of everyone who submitted ideas will be placed in a bowler hat, and eight names will be drawn to receive prizes. Winners will be contacted in the new year to arrange for delivery of their prizes.

With that hoopla out of the way, let's take a look at our most recent cartoons, which is after all the main purpose of this weekly post.


We managed to hold off until December 21 before doing a Santa Claus gag. This one reveals that Saint Nick coined the phrase "carbon footprint."

Modern technology can make love triangles more likely, not to mention more complicated. 

Fortunately, the Elf on the Shelf didn't exist when I was a kid, or I'd be more paranoid than I already am. I imagine that kids hate this grinning stool pigeon, and plot its untimely end as December approaches.

It's disappointing when a friend has a public meltdown.
Poor Rudolph, indeed.

I sometimes accidentally transpose characters when writing or typing words or numbers. This quirk occasionally produces an idea for a comic, but more often just creates confusion.
That's all for this week, folks. Remember, on New Year's Day you can start looking for the Pipe of Ambiguity among the Secret Symbols. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog for more backstage comics banter, and to see what he's hidden in his latest Bizarro Sunday page.
Bonus Track
The Alexa/Siri comic reminded me of the song "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind," released in 1965 by the Lovin' Spoonful. While searching for a video to share, I found this delightful contemporary version by The Mona Lisa Twins, featuring the song's composer, John Sebastian.
There's something magical about siblings singing harmony, and the Twins provide a sweet complement to Sebastian's weathered and mature vocal.

Some YouTube videos are unavailable outside the US, and on some mobile devices, it may be necessary to select "View Web Version" in order to view the video.


  1. Thank for the cartooning and the video. I was pushing 12 and experimenting with cannabis when that song came out and living large in the East Bay. Lots of great music everywhere.

  2. Thanks for the introduction to the Mona Lisa Twins! I watched that video, several more, and then bought two of their CD's (actually, the digital versions). Love the artwork every week, keep up the great job (both you and Dan). It is really appreciated!

  3. "Secret Symbols" - Funny, I used to think of the "Pie" as the "Alligator Blueberry Pie of Happiness,"
    Also, I like the "two daughters" explanation of "K2" now that makes sense to me...

  4. My friends have Siri upstairs and Alexa in their living room. One night, as they got ready for bed, they asked Alexa to "Set an alarm for 8 a.m." How weird would it have been for Siri to respond, "Are you cheating on me with that voice assistant Amazon knock-off?"