Saturday, November 27, 2021

Worm Jerky

Brace yourselves, folks. We've entered another fraught holiday season, with the probability of a new pandemic surge as we deal with fatigue over reasonable and necessary precautions, and pigheaded resistance to a safe and effective preventative. Not to mention further normalization of violence, as long as it's perpetrated by a select class of weaponry fetishists.

Despite my tendency to voice a lack of faith in humanity (see above), I do realize that I have plenty to be grateful for, and I try to keep those people and things in mind. Among these gifts is the ability to connect with people like you, who read and enjoy Bizarro—and even those who don't always enjoy it.

America's Thanksgiving holiday was based on the whitewashed reframing of a particularly horrific chapter in the country's history, but taking time to express gratitude for people and things in one's life is never a bad idea, and it predates the colonization of North America by centuries.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope yours was calm and uneventful, with no political arguments or food fights. I'm writing this post early in the week so I can take a few days off and return to my drawing board refreshed and energized.

As is our practice, we begin with a pipe pic. This one comes direct from my record shelves: Vivian Stanshall's 1978 LP, Sir Henry at Rawlinson End.

Stanshall (1943-1995) was a founding member of the Bonzo Dog Band, who are much beloved here at the studio, and he had a fascinating and varied career after the Bonzos disbanded in 1970. Among his many projects, he was the master of ceremonies on Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells album, and he co-wrote songs with Steve Winwood into the 1980s. He was a longtime drinking buddy of Keith Moon, and the pair were responsible for legendary and outrageous pranks. Stanshall is often described as a classic English eccentric, but that seems inadequate for this singular character.

My most eccentric behavior is spending just about every day making comics and letting them out into the world. Let's review the latest batch to escape from my workshop.

Spyware was less discreet in its infancy, and body heat generated by nervous stoolies often melted the wax recordings.

Tuesday's comic can be read as a simple joke, or as an allegory.

The strip version illustrates the sidewalk's peril with a withered variant of Bizarro's flying saucer symbol.

Rodents are able to adapt and thrive in many environments. Firehouse mice are no exception.

Naturally, Bizarro offered a nontraditional Thanksgiving scene. I had fun drawing this one, especially the zom-bunny portrait in the hallway.

We all know how intelligent our pets are, yet we sound like imbeciles when we speak to them. If we weren't managing their food and hygiene, they probably wouldn't tolerate our babbling.

Over the years, I've based several gags on The Picture of Dorian Gray, but this one is my favorite because nothing in the text mentions Oscar Wilde or his novel. I give our readers credit for having a general cultural awareness enabling them to get this joke.

I searched for reference images in order to portray the Monopoly man (whose name is Uncle Pennybags) and Richie Rich (whose middle name is a dollar sign). Pennybags has a benign retro clip art vibe, but as I studied panels from Richie Rich comics, his appearance became increasingly disturbing. He's weirdly distorted, with a giant head and misaligned eyes. He has a diminutive torso perched atop outsize legs, and looks like a deep sea diver who surfaced too fast. Plus he always wears that humiliating outfit. He's nothing if not instantly recognizable.

That wraps it up for another week. Thank you for reading the comic and following these ramblings. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog for his latest Sunday page and to see what else he's been up to.

If you'd like to be notified when I update the blog, you're welcome to subscribe to my free newsletter. It lands in your inbox every week, and each edition includes an exclusive peek at a yet-to-be-published comic.

Bonus Track

Vivian Stanshall & bIG Grunt
"11 Mustachioed Daughters"
From BBC1's Marty Amok, broadcast in March, 1970

The hyperkinetic performer who solos on the custom built "theremin leg" is Bonzo Dog Band alumnus Roger Ruskin Spear. Spear frequently collaborated with Stanshall, and released some wonderful records under his own name.

Marty Amok was an Easter special starring comedian Marty Feldman, proving once again that British television was superior to anything we had in the states.

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Saturday, November 20, 2021

Kaputnik, I Hardly Knew Ye

Greetings from Hollywood Gardens, PA, and welcome to the Bizarro Studios North blogging station, where we review (and occasionally over-analyze) our most recent cartoon output.

In last week's post, I mentioned that the vast majority of pipe pics I find on the web are of men in stiff, "serious author" poses. Here's the perfect example of this type of photo.

MAD cartoonist Dave Berg (1920-2002) had a pipe in his mouth in nearly every known photo and drawing of him, or of his comic alter ego, Roger Kaputnik. Berg's most famous creation was the feature "The Lighter Side Of..." Each installment included a series of strips on a particular topic, such as water, television, finances, relationships, etc. His drawings were quite well done, and often employed accomplished ink washes for a cartoony yet realistic look.

According to some of his MAD colleagues, he was also grandiose and self-important. Fellow contributor Al Jaffee described him as having a moralistic personality. Berg wrote a book called My Friend God, which gave the MAD bullpen plenty of material for razzing him.

Over the years, many readers found his comics had become repetitive, didactic, and stuffy. National Lampoon's 1971 MAD parody included a brutally funny skewering of Berg and his work.

Comic book and TV writer Mark Evanier's blog recounted a cringeworthy (and hilarious) encounter a friend of his initiated with Berg after the Lampoon piece was published.

He may have been a messianic fuddy-duddy, but there's no denying that Dave Berg was a masterful cartoonist, with a career of more than sixty years. I used to make fun of him when I was a smartypants teenager, but I learned from reading his work, too.

Let's see how well (or badly) I applied the lessons acquired spending countless hours reading MAD.

I kicked off the week with a silly gag, in the longstanding wiseacre tradition of making fun of something I don't quite understand.

The United Cartoon Workers of America requires its members to produce at least one desert island gag per year, so I'm just following the rules to remain in good standing with the union. My favorite incidental detail here was employing the Pipe of Ambiguity secret symbol as a periscope, although I'm sure Popeye did it long before Bizarro.

Wednesday's panel was a bit unusual in that the reader might miss part of the setup (the window sign) until after reading the punchline. We like to delay the payoff for a beat if possible, and I think this approach worked.

Redheaded Wayno & raven-haired J.R. Williams
Encinitas, CA, 1993 • Photo by Mary Fleener

The "Ken" cut wouldn't be my first choice. When it comes to plastic coiffures, I prefer the classic DEVO style.

Internet providers are the only utility that offers no proof that they've delivered the level of service you're paying for, and rates paid by different customers for the same "product" can vary wildly. Their plans all offer speeds "up to" a particular level, but no guarantee as to how often, if ever, they actually reach that particular speed. For the comic, I applied that standard to a tangible product.

When I look at the gag today, having written and drawn it months ago, it's my least favorite in this batch. It feels a little cranky, perhaps even, dare I say, Dave Bergian?

On the other hand, I'm still quite happy with Friday's panel, which combines two of my favorite subjects: cowboys and music. Three, if you count cowboy music. My mind's ear hears the cowpoke speaking in the languid voice of Sam Elliott as "The Stranger," in The Big Lebowski.

Saturday's panel provided an opportunity to create a new variant of the Flying Saucer of Possibility secret symbol. The version in this context is canonically possible, as both Cap'n Crunch and Quisp cereals are made by the Quaker Oats company.

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North. As always, I thank you for reading Bizarro and visiting the blog. Speaking of blogs, Dan Piraro's weekly post is well worth reading, both for his commentary and for his glorious, widescreen Sunday page.

Bonus Track

Bing Crosby, with Victor Young and Orchestra
My Little Buckaroo
From Home on the Range
Decca LP DL8210, 1956
(Recorded in 1937)


A sentimental cowboy tune by singer, actor, and frequent pipe-smoker Bing Crosby, digitized by your cartoonist from a scratchy LP. All it needs is electric guitar and wah-wah.


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Saturday, November 13, 2021

Museum Piece

We have a saying here at the studio: Another Saturday, another blog entry. As usual, we've come to share our latest comics, along with informative notes, a pipe-related image, and a musical selection (which may or may not relate to anything we discuss.)

As I type this post, I'm several days into a moderate case of insomnia, which I hadn't experienced in a while. It could simply be a delayed adjustment to the change to Standard Time last weekend. Of course, the world offers us all an abundance of reasons to lie awake at night, so I can at least assume I'm not alone in this.

Fortunately, connecting with Bizarro's readers through various comment forums, this blog, and my newsletter is always therapeutic, so I'm already starting to feel better. In fact, I'm rather excited to show you this week's opening photo.

Most of the pipe pics I see are men in stiff professorial poses, so when I came across this dynamic shot of Carla Bley, I knew I had to share it here.

Jazz musician Carla Bley in 1979  
© Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS

My research has turned up quotes from several musicians mentioning that she is (or was) a pipe smoker. Bley is a prolific and wildly creative composer, organist, pianist, and bandleader. Her most recent album was released in 2020, at age 84. I've enjoyed much of her music over the years, and I think I'll start exploring some of the records I've missed.

It's not easy to follow a stunning picture like the one above, so we'll try to make it up in quantity, as we review six new Bizarro panels.

More than a few people told me that they'd welcome this variation on an old favorite. I hereby grant the Girl Scouts permission to run with the idea, as long as they send me a carton of the cookies.

If Sasquatch were being completely honest, he'd admit that he's an eight extra wide.
He cranky, but has something of a valid point. Few patients ask their therapist to make them a cocktail during a session.

I'd definitely be intimidated by a five-foot tall chicken. Or a robin, for that matter.
Friday's real estate panel was a direct riff on a comic I did a week earlier. It was also the most intimidating to draw. When I wrote this gag, I offered it Dan Piraro for a Sunday Bizarro page, figuring it would work well in the larger format. He must have sensed my lack of confidence in my ablility to draw it, and encouraged me to do it as a daily. I sweated over this one, and I hope it works, despite my loosey-goosey version of perspective. Thanks to Dan for the tough-love editing.
PS: Shaving is tricky when using a funhouse mirror. 

PPS: Not shown is the "Guess Your Weight" scale.

As I've mentioned in the past, we like to keep Halloween in our hearts throughout the year. I reasoned that the Great Pumpkin probably decomposes after the holiday, and one of its seeds becomes the GP for the subsequent year. It nicely mirrors other popular belief systems.
That's it for the week in Bizarro. Be sure to mosey over to Señor Piraro's blog to see what he's created for the Sunday funnies, and to read his comments on these comics and other matters of interest. 
See you next Saturday.

Spotted in the Wild

My friend Cathy B. shared this photo she took at The Kazoo Museum in Beaufort, SC.

Bizarro is now officially recognized as part of kazoo history. Look, Ma, I'm in a museum!

Thanks for the photo, Cathy.

Bonus Track

Zoot and the Roots: "I Ate the Little Red Rooster"
Red Rhino Records (UK) single, 1983

NOTE: Some YouTube videos are unavailable outside the US.
On some mobile devices, you must view the web version
of this blog to see the video link and preview image.

This selection is a callback to Thursday's "Bantam and Robin" gag. There are literally hundreds of chicken songs I could have chosen in its place. Back in the early 1990s, a cartoonist friend compiled at least four 90-minute cassette tapes of chicken songs, in a truly obsessive labor of love.
This one was scanned and digitized from my own collection. The 45 has a place of honor in my special carrying case of "bulletproof" records.

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Saturday, November 06, 2021

I'm Not a Cat

Greetings, appreciators of amusing words and pictures. If you celebrate Halloween, I hope yours was enjoyable and safe. Although Day of the Dead (November 1) isn't part of my ancestral heritage, I like to observe it in my own way. Remembering family and friends who are gone, while celebrating and appreciating those who are still with us is the best reason for a holiday I can imagine.

Our pipe pic presented itself as I was selecting music for my workday earlier this week. After popping this Lalo Schifrin disc into the player, I noticed the cover photo, and wondered why I hadn't remembered that it was right here in my music collection, waiting to be shared on the blog.

This music was the perfect antidote to a cold, rainy autumn day. I'll mention more about Schifrin later in this post.
Before any additional musical discussion, though, it's time to review this week's Bizarro cartoons. 
Our offering for Day of the Dead was a twist on Take Your Child to Work Day. 

I always think a ghost gag will be something I can draw more quickly than usual, but I end up spending more time fussing over little details and coloring than any other comic of the week. I suppose that when the art is sparser, each line counts for more.
The scene pictured above is fairer and more consistent than the reality as practiced here in the good old USA, where clowns with deeper pockets can hire someone to swing a heavier mallet on their behalf.

The strip version called for a vertical layout, allowing me to extend the height of the "ring the bell" game, and make a lighter sentence even less likely. If you read a newspaper that runs Bizarro as a strip, you had to turn the paper by ninety degrees. Here on the blog, we rotate the image for you.

Although I'm not tattooed, I appreciate the art form when it's done well, and I once served as a judge at a "Meeting of the Marked" event in my hometown.

Intentional UV exposure is probably less safe than the ink and needle method.

The procedure in question would address this patient's browstache as well as his stachebrow. Medical science marches on.
By the way, this panel generated our Ridiculous Comment of the Week:
If you have to know math to get a joke, it isn’t funny. 
This reader must have focused on the word "reciprocal" in the mathematical sense, though it of course has other meanings. Maybe we should add a disclaimer stating that you have to know words to get some of the jokes.
At least he remembered to jiggle the handle.

Over the past twenty months, I've avoided referring to our altered existence due to the pandemic in my comics, although I've talked about it in the blog. I think it's safe to assume that after it's okay to get back to normal (or near-normal) activities, the way people work will be changed forever. Also, once I had the idea for this gag, I really wanted to draw a Zoom screen full of wildebeests, including one based on the "I'm not a cat" guy.

Thanks for reading the comics, following the blog, and subscribing to my newsletter. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog to check out his musings on art and life, as well as his latest gorgeous Bizarro Sunday page.

Peyote Cowboy, Dan's surreal graphic novel, is really getting wild with its latest episode. If you haven't read it yet, skedaddle over to the PeyCow site and catch up with this hallucinogenic western.

See you next week with more of this comical stuff.

Bonus Track

Louis Jordan: Bullitt
Pzazz Records 45 (1968)

Lalo Schifrin is best known for his film and TV scores, perhaps most famously for the Mission: Impossible theme. My favorite of his movie work is the Bullitt soundtrack.

This version of the Bullitt theme was recorded by Louis Jordan, of "Five Guys Named Moe" fame. It's quite different from Jordan's great Tympani Five recordings of earlier decades, but it certainly has its own appeal.

Some YouTube videos are unavailable outside the US.
On some mobile devices, you must view the web version of this
blog  to see the video link and preview image.

The blog and newsletter are always free,
but gratuities are welcomed.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Smell You Later

Happy Devil's Night from all of us at Bizarro Studios North. In addition to the usual recap of our most recent gags, today's post includes a fancy animated GIF, and a link to a comic art auction for a worthy cause.

This week's pipe pic is also an unapologetic plug for Bizarro merch.

The Pipe of Ambiguity, which became our newest Secret Symbol this year, is now available as a die-cut vinyl sticker. It can be purchased singly, or as part of a set of twelve different stickers. These can only be found at the official Bizarro shop.

I'm proud of this little doodad. The PoA was my baby, and Dan used my art for the sticker. I'll be slapping one one my ukulele case soon.

Please note, the smoking burro is not included in the sticker set.

As we look over this week's comics, let's see how many times the pipe shows up.

Souls who roam the earth are believed to retain their sense of smell, along with a sense of indignation.

If only he'd sprung for the additional rider.
You know you're officially a parent when you give up the GTO and buy an SUB.
Call me old fashioned, but if I'm drawing a James Bond gag, Bond will probably be modeled on Sean Connery. Also, I thought it was appropriate since I was referencing Dr. No, the first Bond film.
Besides, Connery is the Bond I remember from my childhood bubble gum cards.

A familiar complaint at the local monkey bar: Never trust a weasel.
We wrapped up the week with a romantic (and wordless) date night scene. 

Just for fun, I built this animated GIF showing the panel's progress from sloppy digital sketch to penciled art, inked art, and completed monochrome panel, cleaned up and finished off in Photoshop.

On the Auction Block

As noted in the opening paragraph, the National Cartoonists Society and the NCS Foundation are currently holding an auction of original comic art to benefit St. Jude Children's Hospital. Most of the works were created specifically for this auction to commemorate milestone anniversaries of various comics and comic characters. The sale is being run by Heritage Auctions.

I donated a drawing celebrating fifty years of Zippy the Pinhead. I've been reading Bill Griffith's comics since almost the beginning, and it was a joy to draw Zippy for this project.

That covers it for this week. Thanks for following the blog and for reading Bizarro. If you'd like to be notified when a new blog entry is posted, or if I have any exciting news to share, you can subscribe to my newsletter for free. Each newsletter also includes an advance peek at a comic I'm currently working on.

I recommend popping by Dan Piraro's blog to find out what's occupying his active mind this week, and to gaze in wonder and admiration at his latest Bizarro Sunday page. And don't forget to order some stickers!

Oh, and don't get involved in too much mischief tonight. See you next Saturday.

Your Seasonal Bonus Track

The Shaggs: It's Halloween
from Philosophy of the World, 1969

NOTE: Some YouTube videos are unavailable outside the US.
On some mobile devices, you must view the web version of this
blog  to see the video link and preview image.

The story of the Shaggs is one of the oddest in music history. The Wiggins sisters (Helen, Betty, and Dot) from Fremont, New Hampshire, were "managed" by their father, who was convinced that they'd be a huge commercial success. The album is an aural cousin of what's commonly called "outsider art," and it's something curious listeners ought to experience at least once.

The blog and newsletter are always free,
but gratuities are welcomed.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Strange Case

Greetings from Bizarro Studios North, where we work every day to bring you amusing words and pictures. Speaking of which, last weekend the National Cartoonists Society held its 75th annual Reuben Awards. For the second year in a row, it was a streaming-only event.

I've been an NCS member since 2007, and attended my first Reubens when it was held here in Pittsburgh in 2013. Since that time, I've gone to every awards weekend, and always come home energized after hanging with other cartoonists, many of whom are heroes who have become friends. We all need to escape our studios occasionally and socialize, but it wasn't possible this year or last.

Good friend and colleague Mark Parisi won the Newspaper Panels award for his long-running comic, Off the Mark, which was great to see online, but it wasn't the same as being together to celebrate late into the night, or at least until the bar closes. If you aren't familiar with Mark's work, I recommend checking it out. I search his comics regularly to make sure a gag I've written hasn't already appeared in OTM.

The organization's main award (THE Reuben), given for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, went to Ray Billingsley, the gent who's been doing the daily and Sunday strip Curtis for over thirty-three years. Ray has also become a friend since I started attending the Reubens, and I look forward to congratulating him in person when we can hold the event in person. Maybe next year...

This week, we have a pipe that's a perfect fit for Bizarro: a painting of a pipe-smoking clown.

Clown à la Pipe
Oil on panel, (8.7 x 6.3 in.)

Armand Henrion (1875-1958) was a Belgian artist with a strangely singular output. It seems that all of his known paintings are small self-portraits, with the artist/subject dressed as a clown, often smoking a pipe, cigar, or cigarette. Since we don't have any clown gags in this batch of comics, I hope this Henrion painting will tide us over. In the future, I'll probably share another of his smoking selfies.

Now, let's see what familiar Bizarro character types did appear this week.

What a relief. At least we have cats in the mix. Drawing the shredded upholstery for this panel was a relaxing exercise, unlike encountering such a piece of furniture in one's home.

My absolute favorite online response to this gag was posted by a couple of readers, who suggested that an ant-acid was called for. They made reading through all of the comments worthwhile.

My initial sketch was rather grotesque, and we ultimately decided to omit the gnarly tongue in favor of the final version, which mimics a human reaction to spicy food (with some exaggeration).

I've done several gags using this familiar corporate mascot, and have also parodied Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so this comic was bound to happen sooner or later.

Speaking of grotesqueries, I spotted this hilarious Mr. Peanut knockoff a few weeks ago at our local farm market. I'm not sure who or what that small figure is meant to be, and welcome any speculation. Maybe it's a naked cashew.

When cartoonists employ familiar characters in order to make a comedic observation or comment on the character itself, that falls under the Fair Use" legal umbrella. This signage, however, is a clear (if clumsy) case of trademark violation.

This was another one I particularly enjoyed drawing. As regular readers know, I love using inanimate objects as protagonists. By rendering the traffic signal as accurately as I could, without any human features, I hoped to emphasize its feelings of alienation and isolation.

The first example of a ploy some still attempt, although it didn't work out for this guy.

Interspecies therapy sometimes has its difficulties.

That's the latest from our corner to the funny pages. Thanks for the  comments, social media shares, and donations to the virtual tip jar.

Be sure to check out Dan Piraro's blog for a fresh Bizarro Sunday page, along with his comments on these gags, and with other philosophical musings.

Before we close out with a musical selection, I'm compelled to share a wonderful photo of Salvador Dali walking an anteater as he exits the Paris Metro in 1969.

Bonus Track

Mose Allison: "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde"
from My Backyard (Blue Note Records, 1990)

 Note: Many YouTube videos are unavailable outside the USA.
On some mobile devices, you must select View Web Version
on this blog to see the video link and preview image.

 We can never get enough Mose Allison here.

The blog and newsletter are always free,
but gratuities are welcomed.